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Designerly Activity

and Higher Degrees

seminar papers from a staff
development short course

Professor L Bruce Archer

Designerly Activity
and Higher Degrees

seminar papers from a staff development short course

presented by Professor Bruce Archer at Loughborough University

Design Education Research Group,

Department of Design and Technology
First published 2004 by DATA

The Design and Technology Association

16 Wellesbourne House
Walton Road
CV35 9JB

The moral right of Bruce Archer to be identified as the author of

this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright
Designs and Patents Act 1988.

Copyright text Bruce Archer

Copyright this edition DATA and Loughborough University

ISBN 1 898788 73 1
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 1


Seminar One: The nature and purpose of

undergraduate design education
in Britain 4

Seminar Two: The nature and purpose of

higher degrees and
research degrees 9

Seminar Three: The science tradition of research 14

Seminar Four: The humanities tradition

of research 22

Seminar Five: Action research: research through

art action, research through
design action 27

Seminar Six: A characteristic project trajectory

in academic research 32

Seminar Seven: Supervision and examination of

research degrees 37
2 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees


The object of this publication is quite So if the substance of these seminar

simple: to be useful to students and their papers is not new, and yet the intention to
supervisors in the field of design. The be useful and helpful remains valid, what
substance is not new (although it is still is the justification? The context of the
possible to be informed in journals, presentation of the seminars is worth
conferences, and electronic discussion recalling. This series of seminar
groups that the activity of formal academic presentations was part of the Department
researching into the phenomena of design of Design and Technologys staff
and the activity of designing is in its development programme in the mid-1990s.
infancy). There may be something in this, Colleagues from the former Loughborough
but what may be nearer the case is that College of Art and Design (which had
more and more students and supervisors recently become the School of Art and
are engaging in design-related inquiries or Design within the University) were also
are required to engage in formal enquiry invited to take part in the programme.
and that both formal research enquiry and
the development or the use of appropriate The professional backgrounds and
approaches to enquiry are new to many of experience of the participants were wide-
them. Practice-based enquiry and practice- ranging, including the fine arts and crafts,
derived knowledge as instances, are engineering, ergonomics, history,
certainly not novel to some of the education and consultancies. At that time,
researchers, scholars and practitioners in some had no experience of formal
fields and disciplines beyond the academic research; a small minority had
expanding community of academic training in and experience of research
enquirers in design. However, enquiry into (though not necessarily in the field of
practice, or about practices, or for the design), and had experience of the
purposes of practitioners (and carried out supervision of higher degree students; a
by practitioners) may be unfamiliar or handful (those with a background in
under-developed or under-recognised education) had also experience of action-
within the broad field of design. An based curriculum research and
epistemologically-based analysis of development. An even smaller handful
knowing, and of knowledge when seen had explicitly considered, or located, their
as functions of intentional action - remains research perspectives in a design-
a rarity and the most serious deficiency. epistemology framework The participants
were, nevertheless, vastly, variously, and
The absence of attention to the phenomena valuably experienced within the broad
of designing when located in an fields of design and design education.
epistemological framework remains under-
addressed and unacknowledged in much
putative design research, as does the
absence of awareness of a considerable
corpus of relevant work in other, long-
established, fields of practice-based enquiry.
Hence the constant re-invention of the wheel.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 3

But the circumstances are perennial, as is One final, rather more personal, briefing
much of the agenda. So it remains useful comment to the reader. Bruce Archer
to develop a shared framework of remains among the international founders
understanding. It helps enhance an ideas of design research. Those who are new to
culture, a research culture, and crucially, the pursuit of research in the field of design
helps recognise and distinguish between would remain well advised to catch up with
the general and the particular. This is some of his seminal writings, especially
especially useful when, so often, the from the 70s: they would provide, for
particular is innocently offered as though it instance, a framework or a map onto which
were the general case. But there are, of specific studies can be located. I myself
course and necessarily, other texts and owe him a considerable debt of intellectual
background materials to engage with. gratitude for the time I spent working with
Inevitably again, researchers and their him on various collaborative projects as a
supervisors pursue other strands and areas member of his staff at the Royal College of
relative to their particular aims, needs, and Art. Immerse yourself in and enjoy the
circumstances. For instance, the seminar presentations!
fundamental debate on research through
practice is not pursued here: that would be
an epistemological argument out of place in Phil Roberts
such an introductory series. At the same Loughborough University
time, nevertheless, the serious student, in January 2004
the majority of design- and practice-based
enquiries, will have to think such a topic
through. It will entail thinking about the
objects and distinctive nature of design
knowledge and knowing, often quite
different from notions about the objects and
the methods of science and the humanities.
Hence the seminars were (and could be no
more than) a skeletal framework towards
better shared understanding and the
development of discourse; towards
providing a platform for further activity;
towards developing a community and
culture of research and scholarship. The
conditions were good: participants from
different fields and representing, therefrom,
differing persuasions and positions.
4 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Seminar One

The Nature and Purpose of Undergraduate Design Education in


A: Liberal education vs vocational intention; and to admit students with a

training wider range of ages and qualifications at
entry. Their success in doing this led to a
widening gap between the predominantly
The cultivation of the mind
non-vocational liberal arts programmes
Before the Second World War, it was widely
and the predominantly vocational science
assumed that the purpose of undergoing a
and technology disciplines.
university education in Britain was to
become acquainted with a broad cultural
This polarisation resulted in a curious and
inheritance and to gain special insights into
very public argument between
a chosen academic discipline, and in that
distinguished academics. In 1959, the
way to prepare the mind for whatever
highly respected scientist and novelist, C P
challenges life might offer. The liberal arts
Snow, published a widely reproduced
were by far the most popular fields of
paper entitled The Two Cultures. He
study. It was NOT assumed that the
argued that the world was entering a new
graduates subsequent career would be
age dominated by the application of
based closely on the disciplines that he or
science. He accused politicians, civil
she had read for a Bachelors degree. Any
servants and managers, most of whom
vocational training needed would be
had been educated in the humanities
undertaken after graduation, probably
tradition, of being so innumerate and so
pursued outside the framework of a
ignorant of the most elementary principles
university. There was a relatively small
of science and technology that they were
number of universities in Britain at that
making fundamental mistakes in the
time and only a very small proportion of
running of business and the management
the population expected to attend them.
of the economy. Science, far from being
narrow and vocational, was liberal and
The Two Cultures liberating. It should be taught to everyone.
After the end of the Second World War a More politicians, civil servants and
massive expansion of university provision managers should be drawn from the ranks
was implemented by the then government. of numerate graduates. Such was the
Considerable persuasion was put on the message of C P Snow.
universities, especially those new
universities created at this time, to offer The equally respected literary scholar, F R
instruction that was more relevant to the Leavis, countered this by arguing, rather
problems of the day. The problems of the irritably, that scientists had proved
day were, of course: the repair of war themselves to be so illiterate and so
damage; the reconstruction of civilian irresponsible that they were destroying
manufacturing industry; the continuing the culture and the environment, and were
education of the young men and women threatening mankinds survival. Everyone
who had gone into the armed forces or should be educated in the humanities first
into war work straight from school; and the and foremost. Any technicians the
retraining of people of more mature years country needed should be given their
whose careers had been interrupted or science training afterwards.
destroyed by the war. Thus, the
universities were put under pressure to:
accommodate a larger proportion of the
population; to provide a great many more
places in science and technology; to offer
more courses that were vocational in
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 5

These accusations and counter-accusations in fact, remained almost entirely

were widely reported and tended to polarise vocational. Their prestige was high. They
public opinion. A prolonged debate raged in were very successfully adapting pre-war
the media. There is no doubt that as a result concepts of industrial design to the design
of this debate, the British Civil Service and needs of post-war reconstruction. Their
the top managements in British business graduates were being snapped up by
and manufacturing industry thereafter employers. The work of their students
recruited a much larger proportion of people received extensive publicity. Leading
with a science education than had industrial designers taught part-time in the
previously been the case. colleges. The same leading industrial
designers were influential advisers to
Design at the margin government and industry. Far from taking
However, the Two Cultures debate left both one side or the other in the Two Cultures
design and technology at the margin. debate, the colleges of art and design had
Architecture, art, design and engineering, their own academic preoccupations that
like law and medicine, had always been drew from both camps. In particular, a
studied in colleges that were wholly or number of graphic and industrial design
relatively independent of the universities. courses were paying a lot of attention to
The duration of their courses were the study of aesthetics, design methods,
different from humanities and science problem solving techniques, creativity
courses. Their entry qualifications were enhancement techniques and model
different. Their examinations were building, prompted by concurrent
conducted on a different basis. developments in operational research,
Certification was in the hands of non- management science and computing.
university bodies. Although a number of
design-motivated individuals and Broadening the vocational curricula
institutions were provoked by the Two However, there was a great shake-up of
Cultures debate into protesting that design higher education in 1963, when virtually all
and technological competence constituted the art and design schools, all the
a third culture, these protests went largely engineering schools and most of those
unheard. Instead, many of the schools of schools of architecture that had remained
architecture and engineering responded by outside the universities were incorporated
including much more science in their in large polytechnics, and made subject to
programmes. A large group of a new Council for National Academic
engineering professors, most of them, as it Awards (CNAA). The overall concept of
happens, located in the north of England, the polytechnics was that they should be
went so far as to convert their courses largely vocational, or at least especially
entirely to the study of engineering supportive of vocational training, albeit
science, cutting design out of their with a sound academic underpinning.
curricula altogether. Design, they said, is Under CNAA validation rules, the
the application of engineering science. broadening of the art and design curricula
Design cannot be taught, or examined. could no longer be avoided. It was no
Science can. Graduates in engineering longer possible for art and design colleges,
science, if they wish to become designers, which had previously accepted applicants
must learn the art of designing once they solely on the basis of a portfolio of art
have entered industrial employment. work, to admit candidates who lacked
basic academic qualifications. Schools of
For a time, the colleges of art and design, architecture had hitherto been a little more
too, remained largely unaffected by this demanding on the academic side, but had
debate. Although several government still attached importance to visual evidence
reports and public examination schemes of vocational potential. Both schools of
published between 1944 and 1959 had architecture and the colleges of art and
strongly advocated a liberalisation of art design fought against subjection to the
and design courses, so as to help create academic requirements of the CNAA for a
more managers, consumers and politicians long time, but in 1971 they ultimately
who were design-literate, the colleges had, succumbed. From then onwards, the
6 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

character of the student population of the disadvantages. Student interest is

art and design schools changed. maintained. Mutual learning and mutual
Subsequent entrants were both more criticism amongst students are facilitated.
literate and more numerate than their There is a central thread to draw together
predecessors, and more at home with the various sorts of instruction. The studio
students from other disciplines. tutorial staff, and indeed a high proportion
Nevertheless, their aspirations remained of the other teaching staff, are usually
predominantly vocational. One thing must current or recent practitioners of the branch
be conceded. Whether from this cause or of design the student is studying. This
from other social causes, it is noticeable gives the student a great sense of the
that in recent years many more graduates immediacy and the relevance of the
of architecture, engineering and industrial instruction being provided. On the
design do enter commerce and the Civil negative side, it has to be acknowledged
Service and do reach senior management that this is not a very efficient way of
and chief executive ranks, than was delivering instruction. Design practitioners,
previously the case. An even higher even if they have accepted a full-time
proportion of art and design graduates teaching commitment, are seldom trained
enter retailing, advertising, the teachers. Many studio tutors have little or
entertainment industry and the no knowledge of theories of learning and
communications media in capacities other have little acquaintance with methods of
than as designer, and a significant number assessing student performance. However,
reach executive rank. in 1989 the original polytechnic concept
was abandoned, and the former
polytechnics were converted into self-
B: Architecture and art and design governing universities, independent of
national examining bodies such as the
Course structure CNAA. Thereafter, a great deal of pressure
Despite all the turmoil of repeated was put on departments, and particularly
reorganisation of higher education in on departments of art and design, to
Britain, and despite the periodic enforced tighten up the theoretical underpinning of
broadening of curricula, the central their coursework, and to update their
features of the teaching and learning curriculum design, teaching methods and
experience in most of the faculties and examining practices.
schools of architecture and art and design
remain as they have always been. Creativity
Instruction is dominated by project-based One of the criticisms often directed
studio practice. Students may have a towards the studio or project basis of
personal workspace, equipped with instruction is that it places undue emphasis
drawing board, display surfaces and on the exercise of creativity and on the
storage space. Students are given a development of presentational skills by the
graduated series of design assignments student. Employers, however, argue that
under the supervision of a studio tutor. A bright ideas are ten a penny. The most
considerable proportion of the technical desirable skill, they say, is the ability to
instruction given to a student arises bring a bright idea to practical fulfilment.
incidentally in the studio tutors critical One of the intentions of the design and
appraisal of ongoing design assignments. technology education lobby, therefore, has
The overall teaching/learning experience been to push the development of creativity
includes lecture courses, guided reading, and communication skills down the age
laboratory or workshop exercise, and scale to the primary and secondary
periodic fieldwork. Nevertheless, studio schools. In this way, it was hoped, the
practice remains the centre of students design schools in universities will need to
and teachers interests. spend less time on foundation studies and
on creativity development, and will be able
The studio, or project, method of to devote more time to the development of
instruction has its advantages and its the highly desirable art of turning bright
ideas into practical reality. At the same
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 7

time, committed people in the design The economic recession

education lobby have always emphasised There was another force precipitating
that design and technology education in change. The worldwide economic
schools is general education from which recession of the 1980s hit Britain rather
everyone can benefit. early. There were bankruptcies and
unemployment on a massive scale. Many
Course duration manufacturing industries, already reeling
For those who do opt to go for from price competition and design
qualifications in architecture, art, design or innovation from Japan and the Pacific Rim,
engineering the effect of the successive collapsed. International monopolies
reorganisations of tertiary education has gained control of the design, manufacture
been to standardise the alternative routes and marketing of many classes of
which a young person can take. There are products. Whilst many of these industrial
two main routes, both starting from the groups employed British design groups as
General Certificate of Secondary Education product and advertising design
taken in schools at age 15+, one leading to consultants, there was a sudden drop in
a technicians Higher National Diploma at the demand for traditionally trained
age 18+, and the other leading to a engineering graduates. Where
Bachelors degree at age 21+. There are small/medium sized companies were
also alternative routes for older students surviving, their need was not for specialist
entering late, or for those moving across engineers, but for individuals with a range
from one stream to the other. of skills, capable of dealing equally with
research, concept design, styling, detail
design and preparation for production.
C: Engineering

Course structure D: Product design

For most of their history, the great majority
of engineering courses have tended to Collaboration
move closer and closer to conventional In 1989, when the former polytechnics
science. It was not normal for the were upgraded to become new
discussion of design to figure very largely, if universities, several of them possessed
at all, in an engineering programme. Where well-established and academically
design did figure in engineering education, respected departments of industrial design,
perhaps as a third year option, it usually as well as departments of engineering. In
took the form of exercises in the calculation most of these cases, the two departments
and redesign of a standard engineering were already collaborating by contributing
component, such as a pressure vessel, a instructors or learning modules to each
gear wheel or a structural beam. Even others courses. Inevitably, in the
technical drawing was relegated to a very reorganisation of the new universities, the
marginal role. In justification for this, common interests of such pairs of
engineering professors argued that rapid departments had to be recognised, and in
advances in manufacturing technology and some cases industrial design-based
information technology had occurred during product design courses and engineering-
and after the Second World War, and were based product design courses were
likely to continue. The syllabus and regrouped to share common facilities.
timetable of engineering science studies Studio or project based courses of the type
were now so crowded that there was no familiar to art and design faculties were
room for such time consuming exercises as more widely introduced for the instruction
design project work. It was not until 1979 of engineering designers. Other
that the trend began to reverse. One by one universities who had not previously taught
the more progressive university schools of engineering design at all, began to
engineering have adopted a policy of introduce engineering product design
placing engineering design and engineering courses to their programmes. In 1989,
practice at the centre of their programmes. there were fewer than ten university
8 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

courses on engineering product design.

By 1994, there were more than 200, some
of them producing graduates with
aesthetic sensibilities and communication
skills fully comparable with those seen in
graduates of schools of art and design. In
an important sense, tertiary education is
catching up with the revolution in design
and technology that has been fought for in
primary and secondary education.

Having been almost the first national
economy to enter recession, Britain seems
to be almost the first to experience
economic recovery. A healthy number of
small firms was entering the market with
new products. The demand for
engineering and industrial design
graduates has improved. However, in the
meanwhile, dramatic changes have
occurred in the ways in which the design
and development of new products is
managed in industry. The traditional
distinctions between the roles of
engineering product designer and industrial
design product designer has faded. They
are now in direct competition with one
another on much more equal terms.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 9

Seminar Two
The Nature and Purpose of Higher Degrees and Research

A: Research and academic degrees knowledge or skills to complement his

or her existing discipline; and/or
Conditions for the award of
to acquire research skills in addition to
research degrees his or her existing discipline.
It is useful to begin by making a general
point. Most research is not conducted for The purposes of an MPhil or an MRes,
the purpose of earning an academic which are always by research, are rather
degree. Most research is conducted for the different. They are:
purpose of earning other rewards, such as
employment, patents, royalties, profit to learn the methods of research
sharing, publication, citation or simply in appropriate to a given field, by
pursuit of unquenchable curiosity. undergoing instruction and by observing
Moreover, it is not the seriousness of a good practice; and
piece of research that marks it out as being
degree-worthy. It is its intentionality. A to demonstrate competence in a given
particular piece of research may be highly field of research, by producing under
original. Its findings may be astonishing. supervision some attestable new
It may make an extremely valuable knowledge; and
contribution to knowledge. Its
methodology may be brilliant. But a piece to qualify for registration for a PhD degree.
of research would only lead to the award
of an academic degree under one or other I shall be clarifying distinctions between
of these two conditions: MPhil and MRes later on.
that it had been approved and registered The purposes of a PhD are:
for the award of a degree before the
work was commenced, or to demonstrate competence in research
in a given field by conducting an enquiry
that it was recognised and approved calculated to produce some significant
after the event as being so special that a new knowledge and by exposing the
university wished to associate itself with findings of the enquiry to criticism by
the eminence of the researcher, probably experts in the field; and
by the award of an Honorary Degree.
to demonstrate understanding of the
The nature of research degrees generalisable principles underlying the
I take a strong line in my attitudes to the conduct of research by critically
nature and purpose of research degrees. I examining the methodology employed
am not alone in this. Many universities are by previous researchers in the field; by
very strict indeed in their interpretations. attempting to replicate and/or refute
The argument goes like this: previous findings; and by exposing and
justifying the methodology employed in
The purposes of MA, MSc, etc, degrees, his or her own case; and
when by research, are, generally:
to acquire competence in the
to improve the individual candidates supervision of the research activities of
depth of understanding of his or her others by experiencing close supervision
existing discipline; and/or in the present research task.
to widen the candidates breadth of
10 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

B: Higher degree programmes experience is based on reading and on the

generally preparation of written components. The
final submission comprises a written thesis.
Other areas of study require or permit a
Types of higher degree programmes
greater or lesser practical component in
A wide variety of higher degree
the pursuit of the programme and/or in the
programmes is offered in British
submission for examination. A great many
universities. They do, nevertheless, tend
research degree programmes entail
to fall into distinctive categories:
extensive laboratory, studio or fieldwork
which is essentially practical, but demand
Higher degree programmes may be
a final submission that is entirely composed
described either as taught programmes
of written material. In others, notably the
or as individual study programmes.
design and technology disciplines, the
The principal distinction between the
practical component forms part of the final
two is the extent to which the student
submission. The notes that follow apply to
participant is entitled to negotiate his or
all types of higher degree programme, and
her own goals, curriculum and timeplan.
pay particular attention to the requirements
Taught programmes leave little room for
of the written component.
negotiation. Individual study
programmes are tailored to meet the
candidates needs. Masters degrees that are NOT
research degrees
Distinctions may also be drawn between The purpose of pursuing a Masters
types of instruction, which may degree programme that is not a research
variously be described as lecture, degree programme, is to acquire higher
library, seminar or tutorial based levels of knowledge, skill and sensibility in
programmes, on the one hand, or as a discipline or area of study in which the
laboratory, studio or field based student is already qualified, or to extend
programmes, on the other. The choice the range of the students knowledge,
between the alternative terms largely skills and sensibilities.
depends upon the discipline or area of
study concerned. To these ends, non-research based Masters
degree programmes may be taught
Similarly, programmes may be programmes or they may be individual
characterised as being predominantly study programmes. They may be theory
theory centred or as being predominantly centred or project or applications
project or applications centred. centred. Masters degree programmes
may be offered in any discipline or area of
The alternatives in each category can be, study, and may be delivered through any
and are, combined in almost limitless combination of lecture presentations;
ways. Thus, there are taught guided reading; gallery or museum studies;
programmes that are lecture based and and/or laboratory, workshop, studio or
theory centred; there are taught fieldwork, according to the character of the
programmes that are lecture based and discipline and the needs of the student.
applications centred; there are individual Students course assignments will vary
study programmes that are studio based from discipline to discipline, and may
and applications centred; and so on. include a greater or lesser component of
practical work and/or a greater or lesser
2 Written vs practical component of written work.
According to the discipline or area of study
All higher degree programmes require a
concerned, the written component of a
written component in the candidates
students submission may comprise:
output. The extent of the requirement will
vary widely according to the nature of the
discipline or area of study concerned. In
many disciplines, the entire learning
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 11

a set essay, a critical review, a laboratory the candidates area of theory or

report, a product specification, etc; or practice; or

a series of essays, critical reviews, lab a body of substantial practical work

reports, product specifications, etc; or executed by the candidate and
accompanied by an account written by
a substantial dissertation; or the candidate of the contribution to
theory and practice made by the body of
a response to a set examination. practical work.

Assessment may be continuous; by Honorary higher degrees

periodic appraisal of an accumulating Honorary Masters degrees or Honorary
portfolio of finished work; or by final Doctorates are awarded retrospectively to
examination. non-students for theoretical, practical or
public work that is regarded by the
Doctoral degrees that are NOT university as so special that the university
research degrees wishes to honour the person concerned or
Similarly, doctoral degrees that are not to associate itself with the character and
research degrees are awarded for the quality of the work done. Most universities
achievement of advanced levels of skill and regard the award of an Honorary Degree
understanding in a wide variety of as the highest honour they can bestow.
disciplines. They are third level degrees There is no formal examination for an
which recognise training and attainment in Honorary Degree.
practitionership that is equivalent to, but
different from, the PhD, which is essentially
a research degree. Such degrees may have C: Research degrees
titles such as: DEd, DLitt, DSc, etc. They are
seldom taught degrees in the usual sense. Masters degrees by research (other
Nevertheless, in some cases, a candidate than MPhil or MRes degrees)
may be required to undergo a period of The purpose of pursing a Masters degree
instruction, and/or to spend a period of such as MA, MEd, MEng, MSc by research
practice in the field, enhanced by is to improve the candidates depth of
supervision, counselling or advice, in understanding of his or her existing
preparation for, or as part of, assessment for discipline by reviewing the existing body
the award of the degree. Alternatively, the of knowledge underpinning that discipline;
degree may be awarded to a distinguished or to acquire research skills in addition to
theoretician or practitioner to acknowledge his or her existing discipline; or to resolve
work that is wholly or partly already done. a particular problem in the theory or the
Such a nominee would be a well qualified application of that discipline. An MA, MSc,
person in good standing, and in such a case etc, by research does not demand the level
he or she may not be required to pursue a of generality in its mastery of research
programme of study before being examined. methods or in its contribution to
In most cases, the work submitted for knowledge that is demanded for the award
examination for a doctoral degree that is not of an MPhil or MRes. Masters degrees by
a research degree may be: research may be offered in any discipline
or area of study. Programmes are usually
a written thesis, illustrated as necessary based on individual study but may
and accompanied by a summary and a include a taught element. The delivery
bibliography, making a substantial system for the taught element may or
contribution to knowledge in the may not include lecture presentations;
candidates area of theory or practice; or guided reading; gallery or museum
studies; and/or laboratory, workshop,
a substantial body of already published studio or fieldwork, according to the
work which in aggregate makes an character of the discipline and the needs of
important contribution to knowledge in the student, but the distinguishing feature
12 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

of a Masters degree by research is the Even worse, a university may approve the
centrality of a single major task of transfer to a PhD programme at interim
systematic investigation. stage, and the student may complete his or
her research and may go on to be examined
The investigation may be theory centred or for a PhD, but will only be awarded an
project or applications centred. The MPhil in the end, on the grounds that the
phenomenon under investigation may or PhD submission did not reach the required
may not be situation-specific, that is, its standard. For these reasons, the possession
observations may be true only for the time, of an MPhil degree has come to be widely
place and circumstances in which it was regarded as failed PhD.
observed. When situation-specific, the
findings do not necessarily have to be In view of this, more recently, some
generalisable. In every case, however, the universities have introduced an MRes
methodology must be transparent and the degree programme to meet the needs for
findings must be validated in their context. which the MPhil was originally intended.
Students course assignments will vary from An MRes programme is essentially a
discipline to discipline, and may include a research training, sufficient in itself, not
greater or lesser component of practical necessarily related to any intention to go
work and/or a greater or lesser component on to a PhD programme. It marks out the
of written work. According to the discipline holder as a fully trained person, qualified
concerned, the written component of a to conduct research. Thus, the principal
students submission may comprise: purpose of pursuing either an MPhil or an
MRes degree programme is to learn the
a set essay, critical review, lab report, methods of research appropriate to a given
product specification, etc; or field of enquiry, and to advance knowledge
in a given discipline. The award of either
a series of essays, critical reviews, lab degree usually does, in fact, qualify the
reports, product specifications, etc; holder for admission to a PhD degree
together with, or incorporated within programme, but the MRes in particular is
not embarked upon by the candidate with
a thesis, being a comprehensive account a view to going on for a PhD.
of the research conduct and findings.
An MPhil or MRes degree programme may
Assessment may include an element of be offered in any discipline. Programmes
continuous assessment, but will be are usually based on individual study but
primarily by final examination of the thesis may include a taught element. The
and, possibly, by a viva voce examination delivery system for the taught element
of the candidate. may or may not include lecture
presentations; guided reading; gallery or
MPhil or MRes degrees museum studies; and/or laboratory,
The MPhil degree programme was workshop, studio or fieldwork, according to
originally introduced to provide a training in the character of the discipline and the needs
the methods of research. Over the years, it of the student. The distinguishing features
has come to be employed by universities of an MPhil or MRes programme are:
almost entirely as a preparation for a PhD
programme to follow. The regulations of the critical appraisal by the candidate of
many universities require an applicant for prior research; and
admission to a PhD programme first to
register for an MPhil, and later, in due close attention to the principles and
course, to apply for a transfer to the PhD practice of research methodology; and
programme. Sometimes, if an intending
transferee looks unlikely to succeed in the conduct under supervision of a
reaching PhD standard, a university will single major task of systematic
refuse to make the transfer, and may investigation.
terminate the students programme, with or
without the award of an MPhil degree.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 13

Subject to reservations, the findings are gallery or museum studies; and/or

expected to be generalisable, the laboratory, workshop, studio or fieldwork,
methodology is expected to be transparent according to the character of the discipline.
and the findings are expected to be
validated in their context. The findings must A PhD degree programme may be offered
be an original contribution to knowledge in in any approved discipline. The
the field, although the contribution does not distinguishing features of a PhD
have to be as substantial as that required of programme are:
a PhD submission.
the critical appraisal by the candidate of
Students course assignments will vary prior research; and
from discipline to discipline, and may
include a greater or lesser component of close attention to the principles and
practical work and/or a greater or lesser practice of research methodology; and
component of written work. Whilst
individual essays, critical reviews, lab the conduct of a single major systematic
reports, fieldwork reports, etc, may be investigation; and
required in the pursuit of the taught
element of the programme, the principal the delivery of a substantial contribution
output of an MPhil or MRes programme is to knowledge.
a thesis or dissertation, being a
comprehensive account of the conduct and The findings are expected to be original,
findings of the research. Assessment may substantial, generalisable and validated.
include an element of continuous The methodology must be transparent; that
assessment, but almost always will be is, a later reader must be able to replicate
primarily based upon final examination of the investigation and to follow and check
the thesis or dissertation and by a viva the reasoning employed. The output of a
voce examination of the candidate. PhD programme is a thesis, being a
comprehensive account of the conduct and
PhD degrees findings of the research. Assessment is by
The PhD itself is essentially an academic final examination of the thesis and a viva
qualification. It marks out those who are voce examination of the candidate.
qualified to supervise the research of
others. The purpose of pursuing a PhD Graduate schools
degree programme is thus to: Following the reorganisation and
centralisation in 1989 of the funding of
demonstrate competence in higher higher education in Britain, a Higher
levels of research skills; Education Quality Council has been
formed. In addition to conducting much
to make a substantial contribution to more formal central assessment of the
knowledge in a given discipline; and quality of undergraduate programmes, the
HEQC assesses higher degree programmes
to become qualified to supervise others generally, and research performance in
in the conduct of research programmes. particular. In response, a number of
universities have brought together the
PhD degree programmes are always postgraduate activities of groups of
individual study programmes. They may departments within the university to form
be theory centred or they may be project postgraduate schools, with the intention of
or applications centred. They may be strengthening facilities and making mutual
offered in any discipline or area of study. support, criticism and self-assessment
The individual work of a PhD candidate is more fruitful.
monitored and guided by a suitably
qualified supervisor. The programme may
or may not include supporting studies
delivered through any combination of
lecture presentations; guided reading;
14 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Seminar Three
The Science Tradition of Research

A: Introduction knowledge-directed because the findings

of the enquiry must go beyond providing
A definition of research mere information; and
There is more than one way of defining
research and there are several traditions as communicable because the findings
to how research should be carried out. must be intelligible to, and located within
some framework of understanding for an
The activities of search, enquiry, appropriate audience.
investigation, exploration, discovery
and case accounts are in the same field of Categories of research activity
human endeavour as research, and may In the science tradition, several distinctive
indeed constitute research. However, not categories of research activity are
all acts of search, exploration, discovery recognised, the categories being
etc fulfil the conditions of rigour and distinguished by their intentionality.
validation that are necessary to justify the Research funding bodies in Britain tend to
term research. This is not to undervalue favour one category or another as a
the enormous contributions of search to, matter of policy.
for example, history; or the contributions
of exploration and discovery to, for Widely accepted categories are:
example, geography, botany and zoology;
or the contributions of case accounts to, Fundamental Research: systematic
for example, medicine and business. Nor enquiry directed towards the acquisition
do I suggest that history, geography, of new knowledge, without any
botany, zoology and the rest are not particular useful application in view.
appropriate subjects for research. I
merely point out that research is a well- Strategic Research: systematic enquiry
defined activity, and that its title should not calculated to fill gaps in fundamental
be loosely employed. research and/or to narrow the gap
between fundamental research and
My own view of research is quite precise. possible useful applications.
First, I will analyse research in its most
general sense, then I will home in on Applied Research: systematic enquiry
research according to the science tradition. directed towards the acquisition,
conversion or extension of knowledge
Research is systematic enquiry whose goal for use in particular applications.
is communicable knowledge:
Action Research: systematic investigation
systematic because it is pursued through practical action calculated to
according to some plan; generate or test new information, ideas,
forms or procedures and to produce
an enquiry because it seeks to find communicable knowledge.
answers to questions;
Option Research: systematic enquiry
goal-directed because the objects of the directed towards the acquisition of
enquiry are posed by the task description; information calculated to provide
grounds for decision or action.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 15

Fundamental research and strategic Action research

research Action research is often conducted by
Popular sentiment may picture the scientist practitioners of one or other of the useful
as typically engaged in fundamental arts, such as medicine, teaching or
research, evolving new explanations for the business, rather than by academic
mysteries of the universe. The truth is that researchers. Action research is systematic
the great bulk of research being conducted enquiry conducted through the medium of
in the science tradition is not classifiable as practical action, calculated to generate or
fundamental research or strategic research test new, or newly imported, information,
at all, and the overwhelming majority of ideas, forms or procedures. The findings
those who are conducting research in the of action research may be highly situation-
science tradition are not scientists at all. specific, that is, valid only in the
They are designers, doctors, engineers, circumstances of the practical exercise
technologists, and others, engaged in undertaken. It may or may not be possible
tackling quite specific problems for quite to generalise from such findings. Action
specific purposes, mostly commissioned by research is therefore regarded with much
government and industry. Most research suspicion by orthodox scientists.
conducted in the spirit of the science Nevertheless, action research findings can
tradition is categorisable as applied research produce case law of immediate value to
or option research. Whilst fundamental and practitioners, and cumulatively, action
strategic research is less in volume, where it research findings can provide data for
is conducted, it can be very, very expensive, academic researchers to conduct
and that is why it has such a high profile. subsequent fundamental, strategic or
The findings and methodology of applied research.
fundamental and strategic research are
almost always published, and any finding of Option research
any apparent substance is critically Option research is more limited in scope,
appraised, and subjected to attempts at being pursued only to the point where
replication or refutation, by others working sufficient information has been produced to
in the same or parallel fields. enable the manager or policymaker who
commissioned it to take a decision on the
Applied research given issue. Most option research is highly
The greatest volume of research in the situation-specific. Conducted properly, it is
science tradition is categorisable as applied nevertheless a systematic enquiry whose
research. Applied research may or may not goal is knowledge. Much market and
result in inventions and discoveries of any business research falls into this category.
significance, and its findings may or may not Very little option research is ever published,
be widely generalisable. Indeed, applied however. Consequently, it is rarely followed
research can often produce indeterminate or up by more generalisable academic
even completely empty results. Empty research, and is regarded with the greatest
results are not necessarily valueless. In fact, suspicion by orthodox scientists.
it may be very useful indeed to a
manufacturer or a government department
to know that a particular line of proposed
development would be fruitless for
themselves and/or for their competitors. It
happens that in most cases of applied
research there is a demand for commercial
or national security, which usually means
delay of greater or less duration before the
knowledge produced by applied research can
be published and thus contribute something
to the sum of shared human knowledge.
16 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

B: An overview of the notion Also widely recognised as not being

science science are:

Science is explanation the useful arts:

- agriculture, medical practice,
Science is concerned with explanation.
engineering, business, etc.
What can be observed? What events can
be recorded? How does this, that or the
other event proceed? Why does it proceed Science is method
in this manner rather than another? What However, science is not defined by its
is the cause of this or that? What is the subject matter. Science is defined by its
effect of that or this? The scientific ideal, intellectual approach. The range of
not always achieved, is to produce subjects that have been addressed by
explanations that have widespread and science, and which have ceased to be the
enduring validity. Most particularly, the preserve of myth, fable and metaphysics,
scientific ideal is to produce explanations has continued to expand throughout the
that remain valid when tested in wider and history of civilization. Scientists have the
wider fields of application, and which right, and some would say the duty, to
therefore offer some powers of prediction. turn their minds to anything, as long as
Science has many branches. Widely they do it scientifically.
recognised branches of science include:
But what do we mean by doing it
Abstract science: scientifically? Some aspects of the proper
- Logic, mathematics intellectual approach to serious scientific
enquiry have been well known to scientists
Natural sciences: and nonscientists alike from Classical
- Physical science: physics, chemistry, times. Respected Renaissance
astronomy philosophies of science have governed
- Earth science: geophysics, geology, scientific enquiry for over 450 years.
meteorology However, in the last two decades there has
- Life science: biology, botany, zoology, been a major shift in perceptions of what
anatomy, ecology constitutes respectable scientific methods.

Social science: Unhappily, not all scientists, and rather few

- anthropology, psychology, economics, commentators and policy makers, have
sociology, linguistics recognised the paradigm shift that has
taken place.
Cross-cutting disciplines:
- medical science, operational research
and design research C: The paradigm shift

Widely recognised as not being science The traditional view of science

are, of course, the humanities: The traditional Western perception of a
correct scientific approach, still held by
Metaphysics: many to the present day, is based on
- theology, philosophy, epistemology, ground rules that were first systematically
ethics, aesthetics set out by Francis Bacon in 1620. The
argument goes something like this. The
The arts: scientist begins by making meticulous
- language, literature, drama, history, observations, or by carrying out systematic
architecture, art, music experiments. He (or less frequently, in
those days, she) records these findings
carefully and publishes them. In the course
of time, the workers in the field accumulate
a shared body of data. As the body of data
grows, corrections are made and common
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 17

features are noticed. Eventually, Einsteins own admission, was even less
individuals start to formulate general justifiable as having been empirically
hypotheses which fit the facts as so far based or inductively derived.
known, and which seem to explain them.
The same or other individuals then seek to Inductive reasoning challenged
confirm these hypotheses by searching for But well before Einstein, in 1739, David
supporting evidence, and adding this Hume, the Scottish philosopher, had
evidence to the accumulated knowledge already taken examples such as the
base. When the hypotheses become evolution of Newtons laws of mechanics
widely acknowledged by workers in the and had articulated a detailed argument
field as having been confirmed, they take showing that, in logic, no number of
on the status of scientific laws. The laws singular observations, however large,
are held to be generally true. The whole could entail an unrestrictedly general
process is characterised as being empirical statement about future events. Looking
(that is, based upon evidence obtained in backwards and formulating explanations
the real world), objective (that is, free from about the past was one thing. Deriving
the influence of value judgements on the from them principles for the prediction of
part of the observer), and inductive (that is, future events was another. Newton had
moving from the observation of specific shown that important new theory can be
instances to the formulation of general evolved without inductive reasoning from
laws). Intellectual processes of any sort empirical data. Hume showed that it was
that fail the test of empiricism, objectivity logically impossible to do so, anyway. No
and inductive reasoning are dismissed as act of observation or measurement, not
unscientific and unreliable. So goes the even counting, can be carried out without
Baconian paradigm. reference to some theory which defines
the conditions for the act of observation
Baconian principles under attack or measurement. Any attempt to capture
Within the Baconian framework, science theory-free data always entails circular
took a great leap forward in the arguments. Ever since Hume, other
seventeenth century, not least by the philosophers of science, such as
publication in 1686 of Isaac Newtons Immanuel Kant, James Maxwell, Bertrand
articulation of general laws of mechanics. Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein, have
However, it takes very little analysis to followed the same track, and come up
show that Newtons mechanics could not against the same difficulty.
possibly have been derived on Baconian
principles, that is, from observations in the Working practices
real world. The notions of mass located at It remains the case, however, that most
a point and of forces acting lineally at a working scientists, and a lot of others who
point are abstract concepts. Even if they think they know what it means to do things
had been restricted to the explanation of scientifically, are not necessarily very
terrestrial events, which Newtons bothered about the doubts of the likes of
propositions were not, the laws could not Hume, Kant, Maxwell, Russell and
have been empirically observed nor Wittgenstein. They have come to accept
inductively derived. Any evidence of that what they actually employ is an
events occurring in obedience to the laws axiomaticised deductive system, that is,
of mechanics is indirect, and the observation and reasoning that is based on
construction of an explanation from the tacit acceptance of a limited number of
indirect evidence can only be inferred by initial propositions that, whilst unprovable,
reference to laws, which, according to the are deemed to be true. Baconian diehards
principle of empiricism, had at this stage of reluctantly admit that scientific theories
the observations yet to be formulated! So can rarely, if ever, be based exclusively on
here was important science that broke the empirical observation, and readily admit
Baconian rules. Again, in our own century, that no scientific law can be declared in
Einsteins theory of relativity (1916) advance to hold good in all places, for all
showed itself to be even more time and in all circumstances. Scientific
generalisable than Newtons, and, by
18 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

laws, they say, always remain provisional. No number of observations of white

Indeed, new or revised scientific laws are swans allows us logically to derive the
being proposed all the time. Thus, universal statement: All swans are
scientific predictions are always white. Searching for, and finding, more
probabilistic. Nevertheless, they argue, the and more white swans does not prove
degree of probability that a given law will the universality of the white swan theory.
hold good for future events is raised by However, one single observation of a
each confirming instance. Many scientific black swan allows us logically to derive
laws, they say, have been confirmed so the statement: NOT all swans are white.
often that their predictive power has In this important logical sense,
reached a level of probability that is generalisations, although never
indistinguishable from certainty. verifiable, are nevertheless falsifiable.
Empiricism, objectivity and induction The pursuit of verification can go on for
remain, for them, in principle, the ever, but falsification is instantaneous.
characteristics that distinguish scientific This means that, whilst most scientific
activity from any other, even though, in theories are unprovable, they are still
practice, the achievement of such ideals is testable, and refutable. Indeed, the only
elusive. reliable way to test a scientific
proposition is to formulate it in as
unambiguous a way as possible, and
D: The Popperian revolution then to conduct systematic attempts to
refute it.
Verification vs falsification
However, in 1962, Thomas Kuhn, in his Conjectures and refutations
book The Structure of Scientific It is this last statement which lies at the
Revolutions, pointed out that, historically, heart of the Popperian revolution.
the concepts governing proper scientific Falsification of hypotheses, not verification,
methods may be seen to have been should be the aim of scientific enquiry.
radically overturned at intervals. He Also central to the Popperian view is the
described these as paradigm shifts. The acknowledgement that new scientific
latest, and perhaps the greatest, paradigm propositions may properly be, and mostly
shift has been that stimulated by Karl are, the result of inspired guesswork rather
Popper, mathematician and philosopher, than the product of inductive reasoning.
who died in 1994. His not very numerous, By the same token, empiricism is more
but highly influential, works on the important in the stages when a theory is
philosophy of science have been published under test than in the stages when it is
in English at intervals since 1959 (his being formulated. The title of Poppers
earliest works, from 1934, were written in most influential book, first published in
German). They have had a profound effect 1963, but revised several times since, is
that reaches far beyond the bounds of Conjectures and Refutations. This title
conventional science. In them, he has encapsulates the Popperian view of the
rejected the whole traditional Baconian correct scientific approach. Empiricism,
view of scientific method, and replaced it objectivity and induction have their place,
with another. His argument begins by but this is after the formulation of an
pointing out the logical asymmetry explanatory conjecture, not before it.
between verification and falsification. His
own well-known example runs like this:
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 19

E: The essentials of modern The problem cannot be resolved by

scientific method transforming the given information
alone; and/or
Popper argues nevertheless, that all there is no given way of testing the
scientific enquiry begins with a problem. adequacy of any solution; and/or
Before going on to an examination of the
central ideas informing the post-Popperian a procedure for resolving the problem is
approach to research in the science not known.
tradition, it is necessary to offer a few
more definitions. Most real-world problems are ill-defined, at
least to some degree.
What is a problem?
A problem is a doubtful or difficult What is a task?
question: a situation in which a person is If a problem in perfect information is
confronted with a demand for an action or merely a task, what is a task? A task is the
an explanation, where the character of the requirement to take goal-directed action. A
required response, the data needed and/or well-defined task is one in which:
the procedure to be followed is/are unclear,
incomplete or internally contradictory. In The goal-states (that is, the conditions
certain circumstances, decision theorists that must prevail on completion of the
may identify a problem as being a well- task) are known; and
defined problem, or a problem in perfect
information. an effective task procedure is known, or
a procedure is deducible from the goal-
states; and
What is a well-defined problem?
A well-defined problem is one in which:
the conditions on which the task may be
terminated are given.
All necessary data are present;
In management theory and in military
a test for a proper solution is given; practice, a well-defined task, with a goal,
an agreed procedure and a termination
rule, is described as a mission.
the procedure for arriving at a solution is
What is an ill-defined task?
Typically, questions set in examination An ill-defined task is one in which the
papers on mathematics are problems in problem defined by the task is an ill-
perfect information. All one has to do is to defined problem:
transform the given data in the proper way,
and the answer emerges. One could The goal-states are unclear; and/or
reasonably argue that a problem in perfect
information is not a problem at all. It is the procedure to be followed is not
merely a task. Before defining a task, predetermined; and/or
however, let us look at the definition of an
ill-defined problem. no criterion is given for judging when
the task has been satisfactorily
completed or when the task should be
What is an ill-defined problem? terminated.
An ill-defined problem is a problem in
which the problem statement contains
More formally, in management theory, an ill-
unknowns, and/or errors, and/or
defined task is termed an enterprise, in
omissions, and/or redundancies.
contrast to the well-defined task, a mission.
Thus, in an ill-defined problem:
20 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

What is methodology? Option research and action

There is one other term that needs to be research
defined before finally going on to an The option research task is almost always
examination of the central ideas informing configured so that it constitutes the pursuit
the modern approach to research in the of a mission, rather than the conduct of an
science tradition. That term is methodology: enterprise. Thus, almost all option
research will be concerned with a well-
The term method means a tacitly defined problem: What are the choices
understood, or an explicitly laid down, open to us at this point, and what are the
procedure for the conduct of a task. pros and cons of each? and How will we
know when we have found out enough?
Strictly, the term methodology means There may or may not be huge amounts of
the study of methods; but commonly data to collect, but the goals are clear.
the terms a methodology or formal Usually, the time, cost and liability
methodology are used to refer to an constraints imposed by the customer result
explicit or agreed procedure for the in considerable pressure on the
conduct of a task. investigators to employ well established
research methods. If, in a particular task, it
In an important management sense, the turns out that there is no way of
adoption of a formal methodology is discriminating between alternative valid
calculated to convert an enterprise (an ill- courses of action, one version of Laplaces
defined task) into a mission (a well-defined theory of probability may be invoked, that
task) if at all possible. is, dice may be thrown, and the winning
option pressed home regardless. Action
research is similarly circumscribed by
F: Research in the science tradition operational and ethical conditions.

All research begins with a problem Applied research and strategic

So, following Popper, all research begins research
with a problem. Say, a phenomenon is Perhaps a majority of the tasks
observed that, at first glance, appears to encountered in applied research and
defy classification. Or, say, within an strategic research are also definable as
existing class of phenomena, an instance is missions, in that their goal-states are well-
observed that appears to be at odds with defined and their termination conditions
current systems of classification or explicit. Circumstances here also often
explanation. Or, within a range of existing exert pressure on investigators to employ
data, a gap in observations is recognised. well established methodologies, although
Or, a collection of data exists, in respect of there is sometimes room for some original
which it would be useful or interesting to thinking in the design of effective research
have some systematic classification or procedures.
explanation. How do we proceed? The
essential features of all research in the Fundamental research
science tradition are that the data should It is in the category of fundamental
be checkable, the methodology fully research that one is most likely to
described, the findings explicit and the encounter research tasks that are
whole exposed for sceptical examination enterprises, that is, where the goals are
by others. imprecise, the methodology is non-
predetermined and/or the criteria for
completion or termination are unclear.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 21

G: The post-Popperian paradigm

Is it possible to summarise the philosophy
behind the modern approach to scientific

The essential requirements for scientific

respectability are:

that all data employed are exposed for

checking by other investigators;

that the methodology is described in

sufficient detail for later investigators to
attempt to replicate the investigation;

that the reasoning employed is

transparent and the findings explicit; and

that the whole is published for critical

appraisal by contemporary and later

The post-Popperian approach enables the


to be liberal about the methods of

formulating conjecture and hypothesis
in the structuring of the research task;

to be sceptical in the handling of

conjecture, data and argument during
research; and

to be astringent in testing findings and

explanations on the completion of

Moreover, to be strictly Popperian, findings

and explanations must be configured in such
a way that they are vulnerable to refutation,
if someone can find a flaw in them.
22 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Seminar Four

The Humanities Tradition of Research

A: Humanities, arts and metaphysics The practice of the arts

The disciplines of the arts are variously
1 The use of terms concerned with:
In most English speaking countries, and
certainly in Britain, the term The expression in appropriate media;
Humanities and the term The Arts tend to
be a little bit confused, and are used creative reflection on human experience;
almost interchangeably. Either term can
be used to refer to that large group of the qualitative interpretation of meaning
academic disciplines in which humankind in human expression;
is the central concern, in contrast with The
Sciences, in which the physical world is the judgements of worth;
central concern. You will have noticed that
when I used these terms before, I the exploration of truth values in text;
employed the expression The Humanities
as the umbrella term, and divided the the categorisation of ideas, people,
disciplines within it into two subgroups: things and events; and
Metaphysics, comprising theology,
philosophy, epistemology, ethics, the tracing of, and commentary upon,
aesthetics, etc; and The Arts, comprising the provenance of ideas, people, things
architecture, art, drama, history, language, and events.
literature, music, etc. With reference to
The Arts, it is important to make a Some, but not all, arts activities are
distinction between: empirical, in the sense that they are based
on evidence obtained in the real world.
the practice of the arts, such as creating Some, but not all, arts activity cites
new works of literature, drama, music, exemplars in the real world or in previous
etc, or performing existing works of writings in support of argument leading to
drama, music, etc; a postulated conclusion. Nevertheless,
virtually all arts activity is essentially
scholarship in the arts, such as knowing subjective in character.
the content, authorship, history and
categorisation of works in the arts; and Attainment in the practice of creating or
performing works in the various disciplines
research into, or for the purposes of, arts of the arts may be marked by the award of
activity. specialised certificates, diplomas and
licentiateships, as well as by university
This seminar is concerned with academic degrees. University degrees may be
attainment in arts disciplines, and awarded at various levels. The courses
particularly with the award of research offered in the practice of a discipline may
degrees in the arts, not in the useful arts, include Bachelors degrees, Masters
which I listed earlier as agriculture, degrees and Doctorates. Courses of study
business, design practice, engineering, in the practice of a discipline or in
medical practice, technology, etc. scholarship tend to be a mixture of taught
and individual study programmes, with a
content of both theory and practice.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 23

The problem of metaphysics B: Scholarship in the arts

The subject matter of metaphysics is that
which lies beyond physical experience. The nature of scholarship
Within this overall definition, the various Scholarship in the arts makes an important
disciplines of metaphysics are concerned distinction between primary sources of
with studying the meaning, values and information, and secondary sources of
judgements that are assigned by persons to information. Primary sources include:
things, events and circumstances. In originals, or original records of, or
particular, metaphysics seeks to provide contemporary commentary upon, ideas,
insights into the meaning of statements things, events or persons. Secondary
that are made, or are capable of being sources include other persons
made, about internal and external realities commentaries upon primary material.
and internal and external values. It seeks Acknowledged scholars in the arts are
to expose questions of judgement to expected to have a comprehensive
people who might have occasion to make knowledge of the primary sources in their
choices in relation to them. It has long field. They are expected to have a clear
been argued that human beings have no vision of the provenance of the important
direct perception of external reality. What ideas, things and events. They are
we think we see is the product of messages expected to offer critical appraisal of the
from our limited sense organs, interpreted more significant secondary source
by our limited cognitive apparatus, and material. It is not necessary, however, for
prejudiced by our limited expectations and a scholar to have produced new primary
judgement scheme. The question What material in order to be recognised as an
can we know about reality? overhangs authority in a given field.
much of the discourse in metaphysical
disciplines. This question has taken on Ideology
added significance with the emergence of In view of the subjective nature of arts
computer based virtual reality. activity, any witness of a particular arts
work needs to know from which standpoint
All discourse in metaphysics is based upon the author produced it. A popular
the preparation of textual argument; on the challenge put to an author by a witness on
reading, interpretation and analysis of text; first confrontation with an arts work is:
or upon the conduct of debate. What is your theoretical position? This
Consequently, the distinctions between is an important question. The authors
practice, scholarship and research are ideology and framework of values will
blurred. Indeed, some university have coloured his or her view of events,
departments engaged in the pursuit of and will be embodied in his or her
metaphysical disciplines decline to make expression of them. Unless the witness
such distinctions. They claim that shares the authors position, or at least
metaphysical scholarship is intensely recognises what that position is, he or she
practical, arguing that the disciplines will not be able fully to understand the
exposure of the distinctions between right work or to judge its merits.
and wrong, good and bad, truth and error,
help people to choose and to decide. At The use of the term ideology in this
the same time, they claim, metaphysics is context needs a bit of explanation. A
entirely abstract, being in pursuit of formal definition of the term ideology is:
essential truths.
An overarching system of explanation or
an interpretive scheme that serves to
make the complexity of the world more
intelligible to those who subscribe to it.

Thus, the possession of an ideology

enables a person or a community to make
coherent sense of otherwise disconnected
24 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

theories and experiences and values in order to earn a research degree. There
arising in different aspects of life. A are few areas where such freedom would
political ideology can do this. So can a apply today. The work would not satisfy
religious ideology. So can an aesthetic or the definition of research as systematic
a scientific ideology. Witnesses may or enquiry whose goal is communicable
may not share a particular authors knowledge. To qualify as knowledge,
ideology in their hearts when confronted rather than mere information, the research
by an arts work, but if they know what the outcome needs to offer insights or a
authors position is, they can at least framework of understanding that will
appreciate what the author was permit others to interpret the same or
expressing. By the same token, it is the comparable material to better effect.
duty of a scholar in the arts to make clear Alternatively, the research outcome might
the standpoint from which he or she may modify or refute previous findings on the
be offering opinion or discoursing upon subject. Generally, research in the
the content, value and authorship of humanities advances by the conduct of
primary and secondary source material. logical argument, perhaps based on the
analysis of previous texts. Propositions
Masters degrees, not being research are validated or refuted by exemplification
degrees, may be awarded for the and citation. Occasionally, in some
attainment of scholarship in the arts. disciplines, research is based on
experimental practical action taken by the
investigator, calculated to produce
C: The nature of research in the evidence on which analysis can be based.
humanities tradition
Beyond scholarship It is in the nature of the humanities that its
The conduct of research in humanities judgements are made within a subjective
disciplines goes beyond scholarship. framework of values. There is no such
Scholarship is essentially comprehensive thing as objective humanities research.
knowledge of a particular field in a That is why it is so important for the
particular discipline. Research in that investigator to declare his or her
discipline consists in finding new things to theoretical position. Nevertheless, some
know, or in identifying new ways of humanities research strives to present
knowing them, or in refuting previous generalisable findings within a given
commentary on existing material. In context. In such a case, one has to
recent times, the once unbridgeable determine whether or not the argument
distances between science research and and the findings would remain valid in a
humanities research have moved closer different context. A series of concordant
together. Whilst science still seeks subjective judgements by different
ultimately to explain and humanities still scholars can nevertheless take on the
seek ultimately to evaluate, science has weight of a generalisable theory.
become a great deal less reductionist in its
attitudes and the humanities have become Good practice
much more empirical. Moreover, their All the humanities disciplines have well
mutual use of databases, and of established rubrics for sound scholarly
information technology, has brought their argument and good research practices.
methodologies closer together. Common amongst them are requirements
to distinguish between evidence produced
Information vs knowledge by original research, evidence imported at
There was a time when in some arts secondhand, the judgements of others, and
disciplines it was only necessary to judgements by the investigator. Scholars
uncover some hitherto unknown or are expected always to be alert to the
unrecognised or unorganised material (say, pitfalls of circular argument, that is, where
a complete set of the laundry lists of some the author is seen to be saying that A is
dead poet) and to catalogue this material greater than B, while B is greater than C,
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 25

and C is greater than A. Harder to spot, in adequate knowledge of the provenance

a long and complex argument, but equally of the important ideas in the secondary
condemned, are commutative arguments, material in the chosen field;
that is, where A is said to be greater than B
because B is less than A. Good practice in the theoretical position from which his
humanities disciplines demands that all or her observations are made; and
citations shall be checked at primary
source level, and that all sources shall be the distinction between the authors own
accurately acknowledged. and other persons evidence and

D: Research degrees in the MPhil or MRes degrees

humanities The principal purpose of pursing an MPhil
or MRes degree programme in the Arts is
Masters degrees by research (other to learn the methods of research
than MPhil or MRes degrees) appropriate to a given field of enquiry; to
The purpose of pursing a Masters degree advance knowledge in a given discipline;
(other than an MPhil or MRes degree) by and to qualify for admission to a PhD
research in an arts discipline, as in a degree programme. The distinguishing
science discipline, is to improve the features of a successful submission for an
candidates depth of understanding by MPhil or MRes degree in the arts are that
reviewing the existing body of knowledge its author demonstrates:
and judgement underpinning that
discipline; or to acquire research skills in comprehensive knowledge of existing
addition to his or her existing discipline; or primary material and primary sources in
to resolve a particular problem in the the chosen field;
theory or the application of that discipline.
adequate knowledge of the provenance
According to the discipline concerned, a of the important ideas in the secondary
students submission for examination may material in the chosen field;
the exposure and analysis of significant
a set essay, critical review, etc; or new primary material; or, a significant
reappraisal of existing primary or
a series of essays, critical reviews, etc; secondary material or sources;
together with, or incorporated within
the theoretical position from which his
a thesis, being a comprehensive account or her observations are made;
of the conduct and findings of the
research. the distinction between the authors own
and other persons evidence and
Assessment may include an element of judgements.
continuous assessment, but will be primarily
by final examination of the thesis and by a PhD degrees in the Arts
viva voce examination of the candidate. Not all British universities offer PhD
degrees in all arts disciplines, on the
The distinguishing features of a successful grounds that there is little to distinguish
submission for an MA by research in the practice, scholarship and research in many
arts are that its author demonstrates: arts disciplines, and that the earning of a
Masters degree to mark that scholarship is
comprehensive knowledge of existing as far as anyone can go. Where a PhD
primary material and primary sources in degree programme is offered, the
the chosen field; distinguishing features of a successful
submission are that its author
26 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

comprehensive knowledge of existing 3. The theoretical position from which the

primary material and primary sources in investigation is approached must be
the chosen field; declared.

adequate knowledge of the provenance 4. The enquirer must always go back to

of the important ideas in secondary primary sources for any evidence
material in the chosen field; employed, or judgements relied upon,
and must always take care to cite those
the exposure and analysis of significant sources correctly.
new primary material; or, a significant
reappraisal of existing primary or 5. The enquirer must record any data
secondary material or sources; obtained in such a way as to render it
checkable by later observers.
the theoretical position from which his
or her observations are made; and 6. All the procedures and argument
employed must be transparent to later
the distinction between the authors own observers.
and other persons evidence and
judgements. 7. All initial and intermediate conjectures
must be configured so as to lend
The output of a PhD programme is a themselves to attempts at refutation
thesis, being a comprehensive account of during the course of the study, and all
the conduct and findings of the research. ultimate findings and conjectures must
Assessment is by final examination of lend themselves to attempts at
the thesis and a viva voce examination of refutation by subsequent investigators.
the candidate.
8. The record of the investigation and its
The post-Popperian paradigm findings must be published or otherwise
exposed to critical appraisal by other
How can we characterise good practice in
humanities research, now that we have
identified the essential rubrics? We have
remarked on the need to declare your
theoretical position; cite primary sources;
attribute judgements; etc. It is a telling
mark of the trend in academic thinking in
recent years that we can now express these
in the same terms as the post-Popperian
paradigm adopted in science research:

1. The enquiry must be calculated to

expose new observations, judgements
or explanations; or it must seek to falsify
previous observations or explanations.

2. The chief questions to be addressed by

the enquiry must be unambiguously
expressed. It is not necessary to show
that the problem posed, or the
conjectures, employed, arise from
empirical data, nor that they have been
arrived at by inductive reasoning.
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 27

Seminar Five

Action Research: Research Through Art Action, Research

Through Design Action

A: Productive and inventive activity support the universities and other

institutions of higher education, give more
Artefacts as knowledge money per capita to those institutions that
Some artists and designers and other can demonstrate they engage in a greater
practioners claim that what they ordinarily volume of recognised research activity
do is research. They argue that the art than to those that are engaged in less.
works or design artefacts or operational or Consequently, institutions that contain
educational systems they produce departments of architecture, art, design,
constitute new knowledge. Moreover, they engineering and technology are very
claim that the act of publicly exhibiting art anxious indeed that the activities of these
works, or of manufacturing and departments should count at the higher
distributing designed artefacts, or putting level for funding purposes.
systems into operation, constitutes
publication. Therefore, they say, these
kinds of productive and inventive activity B: Art, design, technology and
are synonymous with research activity. research

Tacit knowledge Art, design and technology as

Undoubtedly, there is such a thing as tacit research
knowledge, that is, a kind of knowing that A great deal of art or design or technology
is not separated, or separable, from the activity entails some research, or orthodox
perception, judgement or skill which the or unorthodox kinds, in support of the
knowledge informs. There will be some of main activity. It is not quite so certain that
that in all practitioner activity. the activity itself is the same as research
Undoubtedly some knowledge can be activity per se. One has to ask, was the art
transmitted by some works of or design or technological activity an
practitionership to other practitioners, and enquiry whose goal was knowledge? Was
possibly to the population in general, when it systematically conducted? Were the data
the work is published. The opinion of the explicit? Was the record of the conduct of
critics, and the activity of copyists, may the activity transparent, in the sense that
reveal this. Undoubtedly, in some a later investigator could uncover the same
circumstances, a striking art work or a information, replicate the procedures
radically new product or system can itself adopted, rehearse the argument
constitute new knowledge, tacit or conducted, and produce the same result?
otherwise. It can be highly significant, Were the data employed, and the outcome
leading to major changes in peoples arrived at, validated in appropriate ways?
perceptions, circumstances and values. Most academic institutions with higher
However, in order to be described as level art, design or technology
Research, such works of practitionership departments can point to at least a few
must conform to certain conditions. cases of practical activity where an effort
has been made, successfully, to meet these
University funding criteria. So can a few research institutes
What are the conditions, then, that make and professional design offices. In these
some art, design and technological activity cases the activity can properly be equated
synonymous with research? This question with research, and should be recognised
is an important one. In Britain, the Higher and rewarded accordingly. Where any
Education Funding Councils (HEFCs), activity, whether it claims to be research
which distribute government money to or not, fails to meet the criteria which
28 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

define research activity as a systematic activity fall within the cross-cutting

enquiry whose goal is communicable discipline of design research, which
knowledge, it cannot properly be classed embodies several kinds of research. All
as research or equivalent to research. studies about art, design or technology, if
Where an activity does meet the criteria, it they are to be recognised as research
can be classed as research. studies, must employ the methods, and
accord with the principles of, the class to
Other relationships which they happen to belong.
However, identity between practitioner
activity and research activity is not the only Research for art, design or
possible relationship. There are other technology
relationships that are worth exploring. It Similarly, research activity conducted for the
can be useful to distinguish between: purposes of contributing to an art, design or
technology activity can also fall into any
research about art, design or category of science or humanities, and
technology; would be practised according to the
principles underlying that category. Where
research for the purposes of art, design an investigation for the purposes of
or technology; and contributing to an art, design or technology
activity is conducted according to the
research through art, design or principles of its field, and is indeed a
technology. systematic enquiry whose goal is
communicable knowledge, then the
In formal terms, art practice belongs to the investigation can properly be called research.
humanities, along with language, However, the fact that research for the
literature, drama, history and music. purposes of has underpinned a particular
Design and technology practice belongs to art, design or technology activity does not
the useful arts, along with agriculture, permit the art, design or technology activity
medicine and business. Neither art itself to be described as research.
practice nor design or technology practice
falls into the category of science. However,
research about art, design or technology; C: Research through art, design or
research for the purposes of art, design or
technology; and research through art,
technology action
It is when research is carried out through
design or technology action can fall into
the medium of art, design or technology
any of the categories, humanities, science
activity that the case becomes interesting.
or useful arts, according to the question
being investigated and the research
methods employed. Shedding light
There are circumstances where the best or
only way to shed light on a proposition, a
Research about art, design or principle, a material, a process or a
technology function is to attempt to construct
Research about art, design or technology something or to enact something
can be of many kinds. Art or design calculated to explore, embody or test it.
history, and the analysis and criticism of Such circumstances occur frequently in
the output of art, design or technology explorations in the useful arts. Such
activity, are orthodox humanities subjects. explorations are called action research,
Studies about art, design or technology in defined earlier as systematic enquiry
relation to people and society fall within conducted through the medium of practical
the social sciences. Studies about the action, calculated to generate or test new,
materials and the processes which are or or newly imported, information, ideas,
could be used in, or specified by, art, forms or procedures and to generate
design or technology activity fall within the communicable knowledge. The principles
field of science. Studies of the for the proper conduct of action research
methodologies of art, design or technology are well established in some areas, for
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 29

example, agricultural research, educational research, but it applies in action research

research, medical research, etc. Action even where the research methods
research in art, design or technology is employed are in other respects planned
also quite well established, and its and exercised within the science tradition.
methods are sometimes referred to as the
designerly mode of enquiry because it Situation-specific
does not fit neatly into either the Thus an important reservation has to be
humanities or the science traditions of applied to research through art, design or
research, but draws from both. technology action, and, indeed, to all
action research. Action research is almost
Action research always situation-specific. The term
All the normal rules governing research situation-specific reminds us that,
practice apply to action research. It must because action research is pursued
be knowledge directed. It must be through action in and on the real world, in
calculated to produce new knowledge, or all its complexity, its findings only reliably
be intended to test, and maybe refute, apply to the place, time, persons and
existing knowledge. It must be circumstances in which that action took
systematically conducted. The chief place. It is thus difficult and dangerous to
questions to be addressed by the research generalise from action research findings.
must be unambiguously expressed. The That is why orthodox scientists, in
methods of enquiry and analysis must be particular, are so suspicious of it.
transparent. The data employed, and the
observations made, must be fully and Nevertheless, provided the action research
honestly recorded. And the whole must be investigator keeps it clear in his or her own
exposed to critical examination by others. mind that the investigation is necessarily
situation-specific, and makes it clear that
However, in one important respect, action the findings will only be generalisable to a
research is different from the other very limited degree, action research
categories of research activity. Most other findings are extremely valuable. They
research is planned and conducted in such produce insights which might otherwise
a way as not to contaminate the never be obtained. They provide case
phenomenon under investigation. The account material that is extremely fruitful,
investigator tries not to interfere with the particularly in the advancement of the
situation, or to influence the forces at work useful arts and social sciences. In these
within it. He or she tries to ensure that fields of research and practice, well
personal values and expectations do not documented, albeit situation-specific,
affect either observations or conclusions. action research findings have provided
In action research, however, the hypotheses for later testing in more
investigator is explicitly taking action in and generalisable applied research or strategic
on the real world in order to devise or test research programmes. Similarly, research
or shed light upon something. Sometimes, through art, design or technology action,
notably in educational and medical despite its being highly situation-specific,
research, the investigator is a participant in can advance art, design or technology
the human situation in which the action practice and can provide material for the
intervenes. In such circumstances, it is conduct of later, more generalisable,
impossible to conduct the investigation on studies, provided the research is
a value-free basis. Consequently, it is methodologically sound, the qualifications
essential good practice for the action are clearly stated and the record is
research investigator to make clear accurate and complete.
precisely what the intervention was, and
exactly what theoretical, ideological and
ethical position the investigator took up
when making the intervention,
observations and judgements. We have
come across this consideration before, in
connection with the humanities tradition of
30 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Publication is satisfactory. In such a case, professional

An investigator wishing to publish action scholars and researchers would almost
research case study material often certainly protest that the investigation was,
encounters problems of ethics, notably at best, option research, and at worst, not
where individual people were part of the research at all, but mere speculation or
situation intervened in; or of commercial exploration. It could, of course, result
confidentiality, where industrial firms are nevertheless in an excellent artwork,
concerned. In some circumstances, the product design or technological innovation.
investigator might think it possible and
sufficient to publish the research results for Recognition
the benefit of other practitioners, but not to It becomes clear that in these terms a
reveal names or provide detailed accounts particular practitioner activity can rarely be
of the context or the research process. recognised as in itself a research activity.
Orthodox professional scholars and Was the activity directed towards the
researchers would probably still protest acquisition of knowledge? Was it
that such results were incapable of being systematically conducted? Were the data
replicated or tested by others, and that the explicit? Was the record of the conduct of
publication of the results was therefore not the activity transparent, in the sense that
recognisable in academic circles as a true a later investigator could uncover the same
contribution to transmissible knowledge. If information, replicate the procedures
the investigator wished his or her study to adopted, rehearse the argument
be recognised formally as research, he or conducted, and come to the same
she would need to publish its data, conclusions? Were the data employed,
methodology and findings, perhaps under and the outcome arrived at, validated in
conditions of limited confidentiality. appropriate ways? Did the outcome
qualify as being transmissible knowledge?
Only when the answers to all these
D: Research status and validity questions are in the affirmative can a
practitioner activity be classed as research.
Clearly, no matter whether a piece of
research is about art, design or technology, E: Research and academic degrees
or is conducted for the purposes of an art,
design or technology activity, or is Degrees vs practice
conducted through art, design or It is clear that art, design or technology
technology activity, its status is determined works, however brilliant, do not
by the conventions and standards of the automatically qualify the artist or designer
class of research to which its procedures for the award of an academic degree.
belong. Its reliability is determined by its There are alternative rewards, such as
methodology. The question as to whether exhibitions, critical acclaim and public or
the research is to be published or not is private sales (in the case of art works) and
determined by the needs and ambitions of fees, employment and royalties (in the case
the researcher, and/or his or her client, and of design works). It all depends upon the
partly by the ethics of the situation. In the conditions under which the work was
case of research for the purposes of an art, executed and examined. Generally
design or technology activity, however, speaking, the practitioner must have
there may be circumstances where it does registered in advance his or her intention of
not matter whether the research was well submitting for a degree, and must have
done or badly done, whether the research accepted the conditions for its examination.
results were true or false, whether the In most cases, in education or art, design or
findings were situation-specific or technology practice, it is the quality of the
generalisable. The research may have done constructive work itself that determines its
its job in making the work possible. It may acceptability at examination.
therefore only be necessary to show that
the art, design or technology outcome itself
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 31

Product vs process
By the same token, not all research,
however sound, qualifies the researcher
for the award of an academic degree.
There are many other kinds of reward for
successful pieces of research: fees,
patents, profit sharing, publication, fame.
Those who share in, or promote, these
rewards are all much more concerned with
the outcome of the research than with the
research methodology. A researcher might
enjoy great profit from a research exercise
that was, in fact, quite ineptly conducted
but had by chance achieved a
demonstrably useful result.

A research degree, on the other hand, is

primarily an acknowledgement of the
competence of the person who conducted
the research. For this reason, an examiner
of a submission for a research degree is
concerned much more with the soundness
of the methodology than with the
usefulness of the findings. Even a negative
or empty result from research might still
be rewarded with an academic degree if
the methodology had been impeccable.
This is because the identification of an
empty field, or the refutation of an
hypothesis, can nevertheless be a
significant contribution to knowledge, and
can demonstrate a satisfactory standard of
research competence. However, in every
case of research about art, design or
technology, research for the purposes of
art, design or technology, or research
through art, design or technology
conducted for the purpose of earning a
research degree, it is the quality of the
research methodology that will be of
paramount importance to the examiners.

Practice vs research
What practitioners ordinarily do is thus
clearly not describable as research, in any
formal sense. If, and only if, the
practitioner activity meets the conditions of
transparency, and the results meet the
condition of transmissibility, can it be
classed as research. If, and only if, it meets
the condition of pre-registration can it
qualify for the award of a research degree.
32 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Seminar Six
A Characteristic Project Trajectory in Academic Research

A: Preliminaries Goal
Earlier, goal was defined as meeting the
Expanded definition of research objects of the enquiry. This needs to be
Before turning to the sequence of actions expanded to define a goal as the
that characterises the conduct of an completion state that a mission is
academic research programme, it is calculated to achieve. That is, a goal
necessary to expand the definition of describes the situation which it is intended
research adopted so far. The basic formula shall prevail on the successful completion
remains: of the task. A statement defining a goal
should be concise and specific. A goal
Research is systematic enquiry whose goal statement is not an expression of an ideal
is communicable knowledge. to which the final result might
approximate. Although formulated in
However, it contains two terms that need advance, it is expressed in terms that
further definition: describe the result as it will be delivered.

Systematic For example:

Earlier systematic was defined as
meaning pursued according to some plan. the goal of this enquiry is the delivery of
The plan itself must be characterised by its a complete classified list of such-and-
deliberation, sufficiency and transparency. such a category of things not previously
By deliberation is meant a combination of catalogued;
careful planning and conscientious pursuit.
Research cannot be rushed. An academic the goal is the delivery of a new table of
researcher can rarely take short cuts with measurements for such-and-such a
any assurance of safety. By sufficiency is phenomenon;
meant the selection of an appropriate
breadth of coverage which is examined to the goal is the delivery of a new,
an adequate depth of penetration. The comprehensive, annotated bibliography
term well focused is very often used to on such-and-such a subject;
describe a research endeavour that is well
tuned to both appropriate breadth and the goal is the presentation of a system
adequate depth. By transparency is meant of explanation for something;
the quality of exhibiting in the record a
continuous trace of both procedure and the goal is the exposure of tabulated
data in the conduct of the enquiry. This errors in previous data; or
needs to be sufficient for contemporary or
succeeding workers to check, replicate or the goal is a definitive refutation of such-
refute the procedures followed, the data and-such an existing hypothesis; or
adduced, the reasoning employed and/or whatever.
the findings arrived at. Transparency in
the record tests integrity in performance. Thus, at the end of the research project,
the recipient, client or examiner can ask
bluntly: has this and this promised result
been delivered or not, yes or no?
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 33

The post-Popperian paradigm 2 Research action plan

The post-Popperian approach demands
that the investigator: Step 1: Receive brief (or formulate ones
be liberal about the sources of A brief for a research mission or a research
conjecture and hypothesis at the enterprise, given or self-formulated, is
commencement of research; often insufficiently detailed, but needs to
be quite explicit.
be sceptical in the handling of data and
argument during research; and Find out if the Dreyfuss Measure of Man is
satisfactory for the British market
be astringent in testing findings and
explanations on the completion of Step 2: Adopt a short title
research. It is necessary to adopt a title to identify
the mission or enterprise. It is a good idea
Moreover, to be strictly Popperian, findings to select a short, distinctive title that can be
and explanations must be configured in used for quick reference in both
such a way that they are vulnerable to conversation and filing.
refutation if and when someone seeks to
do so. This liberal approach follows Dreyfuss in Britain
through. A scholar or a scientist may
investigate any phenomenon he or she Step 3: Negotiate goal statement(s)
chooses, but if he or she wishes to Before very much time and effort is
describe the study as a scholarly or a devoted to the project, however, it is
scientific study, it must conform to the advisable to agree with the decision-
post-Popperian conditions. makers involved on the goals and
completion conditions for the mission or
enterprise. The goal statement(s) agreed
B: A characteristic research project must be explicit description(s) of the
trajectory completion state(s) for the project. It is a
good discipline to compose a general goal
statement that can be used as a highly
Explanation explicit comprehensive title for the project.
I have supervised or examined over 250
research projects, the majority of them
The goal of this project is the delivery of a
submissions for higher degrees in various
report on the nature and content of the
university institutions in Great Britain and
Dreyfuss Measure of Man system of
abroad, but a significant number have
anthropometric data, together with a
been professional projects for government
detailed account of an investigation into
and industry. Every research project is
the degree to which it provides satisfactory
different, of course. Nevertheless, a
anthropometric and ergonomic information
pattern emerges which characterises
for use in the design of household
successful, well-conducted project
products intended for use by the British
programmes. The model which follows
sets out, step-by-step, the sequence of
events that one might expect to see in a
Step 4: Generate the chief questions to be
well-conducted project. To illustrate the
character of some of the steps, a rather
The subsequent conduct of the project is
elementary exemplar is included.
greatly aided when a systematic attempt is
made at the earliest possible stage to
I will also refer to some of the other
identify the key questions that will need to
instruments of project control that are
be answered if the goal is to be achieved.
helpful in making maximum sense and
What needs to be found out to attain the
minimum waste of time.
completion state of the project?
Here is the model research action plan.
34 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Which is the most authentic version of the insupportable and refining those which
Dreyfuss Measure of Man system of continue to be credible. At the same time,
anthropometric data? What information the research must be working forwards
does Measure of Man actually provide? from the chief questions to be addressed,
Which population does it represent? How with the intention of mutually informing
reliable is it? What is meant by household both approaches and hopefully meeting
products? How satisfactory is the somewhere in the middle. Some of the
Dreyfuss information for use in the design surviving hypothesised findings will lend
of household products for use by that themselves to test by confirmatory effort
population? What systems of and some to test by refutational effort.
anthropometric information exist for the
British population? How reliable are they? Step 6: Construct a draft contents page for
How satisfactory are they for use in the the final submission
design of household products for use by It is of immense benefit, even at this
the British population? What differences relatively early stage, to prepare tentative
exist between the Dreyfuss information titles for all the chapters, sections and
and the British information? Are they exhibits likely to form a part of the final
significant? Can the Dreyfuss information submission.
be adjusted, reconciled or compensated so
as to represent the British population acknowledgements
satisfactorily? With or without such declaration
reconciliation, to what degree does the abstract
Dreyfuss information provide satisfactory contents page
information for use in the design of list of illustrations
household products intended for use by main text headings (chapters)
the British population? context (the reasons for undertaking this
Step 5: Develop a chain of argument for chief questions to be addressed
the enquiry prior art (literature search strategy, literature
This entails the identification of the steps found, critical appraisal of existing theory)
in the chain of argument that will be isolation of key questions for research
necessary to carry the enquiry in a research methods (discussion of methods
traceable path from the formulation of the considered/intended)
key questions to the delivery of a finished summary account of research activity as
result in accordance with the goal conducted (full record in annexe)
statements. A flow chart is often useful. summary of data and findings (raw data in
The chief questions to be addressed are annexe)
key points in the flow chart. Additional analysis/discussion of findings (vis--vis chief
steps will need to be included at points and key questions addressed)
where it will be necessary to plan and conclusions (including, if appropriate,
conduct of searches for sources of recommendation for further research)
information, and for procedures to elicit or list of references
generate information. In the Dreyfuss bibliography
example several additional steps would be appendices
needed for example in gathering list of annexes (project records, raw data,
information on the reliability of the system. etc)
list of exhibits
It is helpful, and entirely respectable
according to Popper, even at this early Much time and effort can be saved at later
stage, to work from both ends towards the stages if (say) a lever-arch file is set up at
middle, postulating the widest range of the start, with guide leaves, into which
possible alternative findings that might data, notes and finished text can be
conceivably emerge at the end of the deposited as the work proceeds.
research. It is then possible to work
backwards from these, gradually
eliminating those which turn out to be
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 35

Step 7: Design and install administrative means that between one-third and one-half
and record systems of the time available should be allocated to
Establish the principles upon which the the task of writing-up. Do not forget to
project is to be organised, including, where include administrative steps, such as
appropriate, agreement with the registration, approval of programme,
institutions administration on control over intermediate examinations, re-registration,
space, access, resources. delivery of text for replication, binding,
distribution, etc.
administrative arrangements
workspace access and control Steps 9 to n (n- 4): Execute action plan
storage access and security As the work proceeds, the action plan/time
materials resource access plan serves also as a progress chart, and
library and database access should be marked to show the dates when
fieldwork/workshop/laboratory access each step is started and concluded. This
computer/wordprocessor access assists in predicting the timing of future
telephone and communications access and events. It will almost certainly be
message taking necessary to amend the action plan/time
incoming and outgoing mail facility plan from time to time as the project
record system proceeds. It should not be amended
log book (including incoming/outgoing lightly, however. The two dangers to be
communications log) guarded against are: first, losing sight of
action plan/time plan/progress chart vital elements in the goal statement(s), the
engagement book chief questions to be addressed and/or the
bibliographic records key question(s) for research; and second,
general address record allowing the timescale to overrun. A well
record of items needing attribution, copyright constructed action plan/time plan/progress
release, etc chart is a helpful self-discipline. It is also a
fieldwork/working paper file(s)/raw data lifeline to hang on to when, at peak times,
visual/3D material register the researcher is in danger of disappearing
under mounting piles of information, or of
All space and resource systems need to be becoming disoriented with too many
designed from the outset to be capable of things going on at once.
accommodating growth and change.
Step (n-3): Check completion state of the
Step 8: Develop action plan/time plan project and report accordingly
The development of an action plan/time On the triggering of a task termination rule
plan entails listing all the steps necessary (completion state achieved, or time
to set up, conduct, write up and present expired, or whatever), determine whether
the research and its report. The chief or not the enquiry has attained the goal
questions to be addressed, the chain of states originally set out, and prepare a
argument and the draft contents page all report accordingly for inclusion in the final
contribute ideas for the incorporation of submission.
steps in the action plan/time plan. Include,
at some time after the search of prior art, Step (n-2): Deliver final submission and
one or more steps to isolate the key debrief
questions demanding original research. The conditions for the delivery of a final
The action plan/time plan is usually most submission differ from institution to
conveniently set out in the form of a institution, and may or may not include a
staggered bar chart. viva voce examination and/or other
requirements. On the execution of all
Allow in the time plan periods for at least these requirements, the researcher will
two readings by advisers/supervisor, usually be required to report completion to
followed by extensive corrections, and for his or her supervisor and/or the
at least one complete rewrite of some of institutions administration.
the more critical sections. Allow sufficient
time for the preparation of artwork. This
36 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

Step (n-1): Dismount administrative, to be so original and so important as to be

resource and record systems epoch making. The contribution must
After submitting the result of the task, and indeed be new and of some value. The
after debriefing with the authority that most damning criticism that can be made
commissioned it, the conscientious of a piece of academic research is to
researcher will close each of the project dismiss it as trivial. Nevertheless, the
record systems, weed the files of overridingly most important quality looked
redundant or repetitive material, assemble for in an MPhil or MRes degree submission
the records and store them as an archive; is a clear demonstration of competence.
dismount the projects workplace, storage,
communication, etc, systems; disperse the For these reasons, in most academic
equipment and materials employed; and institutions, a premium is placed on
report withdrawal to the administrative and methodological orthodoxy at MPhil or
resourcing authorities. MRes level, particularly in fields of
research conducted in the science tradition.
Step (n): Publish For the same reasons, and particularly
Research conducted for the purposes of projects in fields of research conducted in
earning an academic degree is the arts tradition, much store is placed on
automatically published through the the MPhil or MRes researchers ability both
appropriate academic library and listing to perform a comprehensive search of the
systems. Fundamental and strategic literature and to offer penetrating criticism
research should be published additionally of prior art.
in an appropriate learned journal. Applied
and action research, whether academic or Ideally, the objective of an MPhil or MRes
professional, should be published in submission is to make out a prima facie
professional or technical journals. Even case for the testing of a new theory, or for
the record of an empty or incomplete the refutation or qualification of some
result is useful to others. existing theory. The findings would isolate
key questions for incorporation in a
proposal for a PhD programme to follow.
C: The role of the characteristic
research action plan The trajectory for a PhD programme will
follow the same pattern as that set out
above albeit exhibiting research practice at
A first approximation a more advanced level.
The model research action plan presented
here is couched in general terms, and
incorporates, at some points, the simple
exemplar, Dreyfuss in Britain. The
research action plan is offered as a first
approximation for adaption to the
circumstances of individual projects.

The quality looked for in MPhil or

MRes degrees
One of the principal purposes of an MPhil
or MRes submission is to qualify for
registration for a PhD degree. An MPhil or
MRes research project is therefore often
configured so as to provide the
groundwork and justification for a more
penetrating PhD programme to follow.
Whilst all research degrees require the
candidate to make an original contribution
to knowledge, the findings of an MPhil or
MRes degree programme are not expected
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 37

Seminar Seven

Supervision and Examination of Research Degrees

A: Introduction really up to standard. So everyone wants

the candidate to pass, but for the right
Intention of this seminar reasons. One of the aims of any higher
The intentions of this final seminar are: degree examination is thus to ensure that
the work examined compares favourably
to outline a procedure for the conduct of with submissions for comparable degrees
examinations for research degrees; in respected academic institutions
elsewhere, nationally and internationally.
to provide some insights into the
examiners and examinees interests in
the conduct of a research degree B: The purposes of higher degrees
examination; and
What the work must be and do
to suggest to the candidate some The purposes of MA, MSc, etc, degrees by
strategies for the achievement of optimal research are:
performance in the examinees role.
to improve the candidates depth of
The whole lays special emphasis on the understanding of his or her existing
supervision of candidates pursuing discipline; and/or
research degrees in the various fields of
art, design and technology education. to widen the candidates breadth of
knowledge or skills to complement his
The motivations of higher degree or her existing discipline; and/or
Candidates need to be assured that higher to acquire research skills in addition to
degree examiners are not, on the whole, his or her existing discipline.
motivated by a desire to fail people.
Examiners recognise that when a The essential requirement of the
candidate fails, his or her failure reflects candidates submission, besides setting out
badly on the supervisor, the department a defensible argument on the subject of his
and the university, as well as on the or her research, is to provide convincing
candidate. Indeed, many external evidence that these overall academic
examiners attach more blame for failure on purposes, too, have been met.
the supervisor and the department than on
the candidate, arguing that the supervisor By contrast, the purposes of an MPhil or an
and the head of department really should MRes are:
know what standard is required, and really
should have instructed or disciplined the to learn the methods of research
candidate more effectively. So everyone appropriate to a given field by
concerned wants the candidate to pass. undergoing instruction and by observing
good practice; and
Maintaining academic standards
However, everyone also wants the
to demonstrate competence in a given
field of research by producing under
candidate to pass for the right reasons.
supervision some attestable new
There is only one thing worse for the
reputation of an academic department than
a record of failures, and that is a record of
having passed people whose work is not
38 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

The purposes of a PhD are: or her supervisors during the conduct of

the task is advisory, rather than
to demonstrate competence in research instructional. On completion of the task, it
in a given field by conducting an enquiry is for the examiners to judge, in retrospect,
calculated to produce some significant whether or not the candidate has
new knowledge and by exposing the succeeded in performing adequately the
findings of the enquiry to criticism by task that he or she has set himself or
experts in the field; and herself, within the terms approved by the
department and the university. It is
to demonstrate understanding of the important, therefore, for the candidate to
generalisable principles underlying the state absolutely clearly, both at the outset
conduct of research by critically and in his or her final submission, what
examining the methodology employed exactly he or she is trying to do. It is
by previous researchers in the field, by advisable, also, to clarify the limitations
attempting to replicate and/or refute that are implied by the goals of the task,
previous findings, and by exposing and and to make it equally clear to the
justifying the methodology employed in examiners what he or she is NOT trying to
his or her own case; and do. The most repeated advice that
supervisors find it necessary to impress on
to acquire competence in the most candidates is to keep things simple.
supervision of the research activities of
others by experiencing close supervision What a final submission must
in the present research task. comprise
A final submission may be a single volume
The essential requirement of the of written text. It may be a single text,
candidates submission in all these cases is perhaps with appendices and annexes, in
to provide convincing evidence that these two or more volumes. Or it may be one or
general purposes have been met, in more volumes of written text supported by
addition to the particular purpose of one or more volumes of annexes
providing a defensible argument on the containing written text, computer printouts,
conduct and findings of his or her research. photographs, film, artwork or whatever else
has been approved in advance by the
Examination is on the candidates department and the university.
own terms
In the cases of Bachelors degree Where non-written material is part of a
examinations and Masters degree taught final submission, a complete catalogue of
course examinations, candidates are the non-written material must be included
examined on their performance in the in, or annexed to, the written text. In every
assimilation of an externally set syllabus. case, the contents page of the leading
A submission for a research degree, by volume of the written text must show
contrast, offers evidence of the candidates precisely what is included in the final
performance in a self-set mission. A submission and where exactly it can be
research task is, by definition, unique. It is found. It must be possible for the
up to the candidate to define, in advance, examiners, sitting at home or in their own
the research task he or she intends to offices, to comprehend and judge the
perform. It is for the department and the quality of the whole submission from the
university to decide, at the outset, whether material sent to them. If the candidate
or not the proposed task is valid and regards it as essential that the examiners
practicable, and whether or not the goals, should inspect an object, such as an
if attained, would make an appropriate artwork or a prototype, in the round, then
contribution to scholarship. the approval of the appropriate committee
may be sought to expose this material to
Once the candidates proposal is accepted the examiners on the occasion of the viva
by the university, the guidance on voce examination. Nevertheless, an
methodology given to the candidate by his adequate illustration must be included in
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 39

the written text, so that examiners may get C: The examination

at least a provisional understanding of the
whole of the final submission in advance, What the examination comprises
before finalising their judgement in the In most British universities, a research
presence of the exhibited material at the degree examination is in three parts:
viva voce examination.
an internal assessment conducted within
The audience for a final submission the candidates home department, to
Although a candidate can reasonably make sure the proposed final
expect the members of his or her submission is complete and fit for
examining board to have been selected so exposure to external examiners; and
as to possess the vocabulary and expertise
to understand the final submission put a reading by the members of the
before them, it must be remembered that examining board, usually not in each
an academic thesis is also written for others or the candidates presence; and
posterity. If the work is of any value, later
researchers will be consulting the text for a viva voce examination of the candidate
years to come. Teachers may use it for by the members of the examining board
instructional purposes. To be intelligible to sitting together.
such audiences, candidates are advised to
avoid jargon. They should use good, plain The internal assessment
language. Sentences should be short. The candidates home department
Any lengthy, repetitious or boring (but invariably demands that the material
essential) tabulations and text should be submitted for internal assessment is
assigned to appendices. Short, pithy complete, so far as the contents are
summaries should be provided in the main concerned, but usually acknowledges that
text. Audiences should be recognised as the material may be in loose leaf form and
intelligent, educated persons, but also unpolished with respect to artwork, page
persons who are nevertheless not layout, etc. The internal assessment is
necessarily privy to, or patient with, the intended to identify weaknesses and errors
slang, coded phrases and shibboleths of before it is too late. The candidate may be
particular schools of thought. The advised to make changes. In extreme
appropriate technical vocabulary can be cases, where the material is clearly
employed where necessary, but it must be inadequate, a candidate may be advised to
used in its correct senses and in its proper refrain from submitting the work to
context. Candidates should never invent external examiners, at least for the time
words or coin usages. Nor should they being. However, if a candidate insists on
ever employ existing words or phrases in going to final submission against the
idiosyncratic ways. That has to wait until advice of the internal assessors, the
they have become famous. For the time regulations of most British universities give
being, they should be instructed to express him or her the right to do so.
themselves confidently but modestly, and
to be ready to submit themselves to
The examining board
criticism. Above all, they should
Because the subject matter of individual
remember that the engine of development
research degree submissions differ so
of human knowledge is readiness to refute,
widely, the composition of each candidates
and be refuted.
examining board has to be adapted to suit
the case. Most commonly, there is one
external examiner who is an expert in the
candidates field of enquiry. In some cases,
where no single external examiner can be
found to cover the field of the study, more
than one external examiner may be
appointed. Almost always, an internal
examiner is appointed from a department
40 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

other than the candidates own. In some the act of assessment to show evidence of
British universities these days, in view of impeccable professionalism. By the same
the quality assessments being made, an token, any hint of hype arouses
examining board for a research degree everyones suspicions. Clarity and integrity
includes an academic official having special are the keys.
responsibility for the quality assessment of
research. The rest of the examining board The viva voce examination
usually comprises the candidates own A common pattern for viva voce
Head of Department (or his or her deputy) examinations is as follows:
and the candidates supervisor. Thus there
are usually between four and six persons The candidate sets out in the
present at the viva voce examination, examination room any material that has
besides the candidate. been designated as appropriate for
exposure during the viva voce
The formal reading examination.
Few examiners, faced with the task of
reading a final submission, begin at the The examiners assemble in the
beginning, go right on until they come to examination room and discuss
the end, and then stop. It is not a serial informally any matter on which any of
task. Most start by reading the introductory the examiners would like clarification.
chapters of the main text, to get a global Usually they sit round a boardroom
view of the candidates intentions. Then table. Whoever is so designated takes
they may look very carefully indeed at the the Chair.
conclusions, to see to what extent the
intentions have been met, next inspect the The candidate is invited to enter, is
bibliography to find out what prior art has introduced to the examiners individually,
been investigated, sample the footnotes or and is invited to take a seat.
references to find out upon what
authorities the reasoning is based, and to Often, the candidate is invited to make a
judge whether or not the candidate has short opening statement.
penetrated the right literature to sufficient
depth. Then back to the methodology The examiners then interrogate the
chapter to judge the appropriateness and candidate in turn.
sufficiency of the research methods; and
finally the examiner may read the whole Usually, the candidate is invited to make
thing through serially, paying special a closing statement, or to ask questions
attention this time to the analysis and of the examiners, and thereafter leaves
findings. Often, an examiner will visit the the examination room.
library to check some of the accuracy and
relevance of the references and citations. If The examiners discuss the candidates
an examiner has doubts or questions about performance, and come to a judgement.
the submission, he or she may give notice The examiners may be asked to agree a
that raw data, references, questionnaires, short written report.
field observations, etc, must be produced at
the viva voce examination. The examining board dissolves, and the
members disperse.
The importance of presentation
For any individual to reach a state of The chairman reports their findings to
readiness for examination for a research the appropriate committee.
degree is an admirable achievement. The
task of examining a submission for a A viva voce examination is a searching
research degree is no mean task, either. To experience. It should be regarded as an
do honour to the endeavours invested in essential part of the academic research
both these achievements, everyone training. Most candidates discover things
expects both the material submitted and about themselves and their subject that
would not have emerged without a
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 41

penetrating interrogation. Institutions differ Looking your Examiner in the eye

as to whether or not a viva voce There is something potent about looking
examination for a PhD degree should be people steadily in the eye. Averted gazes
conducted in public. Some distribute read as submissive, uncertain or shifty. A
announcements of the date, time, place and candidate who is continually looking down,
subject of a PhD examination to scholars snatching glances at notes, shuffling
and institutions likely to be interested, with through papers, hunting through his or her
an implied or explicit invitation to attend text or gazing desperately at the wall for
and witness the examination. Some inspiration looks like a loser. Hold intense
universities keep it private. eye to eye contact with each of your
examiners all the while he or she is
Some behavioural advice to speaking, all the while you are answering.
When I am supervising a candidate for a What should be in front of you
higher degree, I usually give him or her The two most powerful gestures you can
some quite specific advice as to how to make are: first, to have in front of you on
handle themselves at examination. This is the table nothing but a single copy of the
what I tell them: main volume of your submission, which
your examiners will also have in front of
Making your entry them; and, second, never to look at it. You
When invited to join your examiners in the should demonstrate absolute confidence
examination room, enter quietly but by knowing your text so well that you do
briskly, bearing an expression on your face not need to open it in order to answer
that shows you are eager for a challenging questions about it.
but rewarding experience. Have nothing in
your hand or under your arm but a single Managing annexes and exhibits
copy of the main volume of your written Anything beyond the main text should be
text. Approach the Chair. Wait to be carefully but discreetly set out in the
introduced. Listen carefully to the examination room beforehand, perhaps on
examiners names. Shake hands warmly, if a separate table or shelf or display panel,
that is what they seem to wish you to do. within reach, but not intruding between
Sit when invited to do so by the Chair. you and your examiners. If and when you
do produce annexes, exhibits or picture
Your attitude at the viva material for inspection during the viva
Daunting though it may be to be voce examination, do so in a professional
interrogated by a group of experienced lecture room manner, probably from a
academics, do not forget that you are now standing position, not twisting round
one of the worlds experts on your awkwardly in your seat.
particular subject. Your examiners know
almost as much as you do about your Your opening statement
subject, because they have read your text If you are invited to make an opening
carefully. You stand before your peers. statement, make it brief and to the point.
They will certainly know more than you do Do NOT try to summarise your text. They
about their own subjects, which most have read it at least once. Get tuned in to
probably intersect with your own. The the meeting, and get the meeting tuned in
criticism they will bring to bear on your to you, by telling them succinctly where
work will be distilled from that slightly you stood when this adventure began;
different experience. They are there to what it was that drove you to set out on
test the integrity of your argument, not to such an exacting task; what it was you
put you down. You are there to defend were really trying to do; and what, at root,
your argument, and to refute their you think you have achieved.
criticism if you can.
42 Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees

The interrogation irritable or struck dumb. Take the remarks

Usually, the external examiner is invited by absolutely at face value. Appear to be
the Chair to lead the interrogation. The intrigued by their interesting implications.
chief things he or she will want to discover Respond to the question as earnestly as
are: first, did you really do all the work you can, and hope that he or she will soon
yourself, or did someone do all or part of it shut up. The other examiners will certainly
for you; and, second, do you really notice. An effective Chairman will deflect
understand the logic and the limitations of the course of the debate, and probably
the arguments you have used. The other rebrief the errant examiner at some
examiners join in the questioning, or suitable point in the proceedings.
follow on. Defend your own views and
arguments stoutly, but maintain a good Your closing remarks
natured positive spirit of creative debate If and when you are asked to make a
through thick and thin. They will respect closing statement, this is your chance to
you for it. Be eager and interested in make good any error or omission you think
whatever they have to say. Where has occurred in the debate. You could
necessary, ask them, in a constructive remind your examiners of the central
spirit, to explain exactly what they mean. intentions and conclusions of your
Remember, nobody is trying to trip you up. submission. Or you could say very little. It
Everybody wants you to pass, but for the is always best to keep it short.
right reasons. Nevertheless, do not fail to thank your
examiners most sincerely for assessing
Handling the devastating question your work. Tell them that you have
Nevertheless, if you are very unlucky, an learned a lot from the experience of
examiner may ask you a question or make preparing for, and undergoing, the
a statement that seems, at first hearing, to examination, which will certainly be true.
demolish the central pillar of your
argument. If this happens, dont panic. Making a graceful exit
Dont be stung into a heated reply or felled When the Chairman indicates that you can
into a miserable silence. Play for time. go, rise from your seat, retrieve the main
Get the questioner to explain his or her volumes of your text that (hopefully) you
point more clearly. Enter into a scholarly have kept closed in front of you throughout
debate about the meaning of the question; the viva voce examination, and say
the validity of the question; the validity of goodbye (with a smile) to each examiner in
any such question in the context of your turn. Shake hands warmly if they seem to
field of research; the alternative answers to expect you to do so. Turn on your heel,
such a question in various circumstances; and walk away sedately. Close the door
the impact of the various answers on your quietly but securely, and walk a long way
argument; and so on. As a last resort, off before screaming!
make a case for concluding that your
overall conclusions remain valid, even if
the central pillar of your argument was D: The examiners verdict
demolished. You might get full marks for
trying, even if your argument has been The options open to an examining
refuted. Conjectures and refutations are
what research is all about.
Usually, there are four options open to an
Examining Board:
Handling the examiner who has got it all
Very, very occasionally an examiner may
misread a submission so badly, or
Conditional Pass;
misunderstand the context of your
argument, or mistake the purposes of the
Resubmit (or Refer); or
examination so fundamentally, that his or
her remarks are quite inappropriate. If this
happens to you, dont be dismissive,
Designerly Activity and Higher Degrees 43

It may take only a few minutes to reach The announcement of the verdict
agreement. On rare occasions it can take Examiners are usually required to make up
hours. Sometimes examiners may reach their minds at the time of an examination,
their verdict quickly, but remain sufficiently but their verdict almost always has to be
intrigued by the points raised in debate to ratified by an appropriate committee.
go on talking about them long after the Whilst it is extremely rare for a committee
candidate has gone. of a British university to overturn the
judgement of an examining board,
The Unconditional Pass candidates generally have to wait to learn
The award of a completely unconditional the result until after that committee
pass for a submission for a research meeting. In the case of examinations for
degree is actually rather rare. Few research degrees, which often take place at
submissions for research degrees are so times of year different from the dates of
totally free from error that the text can go examinations for taught courses,
to the binders untouched. supervisors often let individual candidates
know the recommended verdict, very
The Conditional Pass confidentially, soon after the examiners
In the majority of cases, examiners ask for have dispersed. In some situations, the
certain corrections to be made. The Chair will be prepared to inform the
corrections may be mere spelling mistakes candidate of the result whilst reminding
or diagram errors, or they may require him or her that the result has to be
major editorial changes. Examiners may confirmed by the committee.
ask for particular passages, a whole
chapter or a whole appendix to be left out.
They may require some of the main text to
be assigned to an appendix. They may ask
that something revealed at the viva voce
examination be added to the text. The
essential feature of a conditional pass is
that corrections are called for, but no
change in the sense of the argument is
required. The degree is withheld until
corrections are completed.

Resubmit (or Refer)

Where, as is also commonly the case, the
examiners require changes to be made
that do affect the course of the argument,
they may wish to inspect the work again,
in its revised form, before allowing the
candidate to pass. The examining board
meeting is, in effect, adjourned until the
examiners have seen and approved an
altered submission. This may mean a
delay of days, weeks or months, according
to circumstances.

Where the examiners decide that a
submission has failed to reach the required
standards, there is no prospect for
corrections or resubmission. If the failed
candidate wishes to try again, he or she
must re-register for a new programme. In
most universities there is no appeal
against a verdict of fail.
About the author

Professor L BRUCE ARCHER CBE, Dr RCA, Hon DSc, CEng, MIMechE

Director of Research, Royal College of Art, 1985-1988, now Emeritus Professor

Served Scots Guards, 1941-44. City University, 1946-50. Various posts in the manufacturing industry,
1950-57. Lecturer, Central School of Art and Design, London 1957-60. Guest Professor, Hochschule
Fur Gestaltung, Olm 1960-61. Research Fellow, later Professor, Royal College of Art 1961-88; Head of
Department of Design Research, RCA 1968-86 and of Design Education Unit; Director of RCA
Research. Various publishing appointments in design education, industrial and scientific policy, 1968
to date. Member: Design Council, 1972-80; International Science Policy Foundations 1979 to date;
Council, Association of Art Institutions, 1980 to date. Chairman, Confederation of Art and Design
Associations 1981-88. Director, Gore Projects Limited 1982-90; Design Research Innovation Centre
Limited, 1982-86. Honorary DSc City University 1986. Varied publications on theory and practice of
design research, design development and education.
This book, by one of the worlds foremost authorities on design
research, is a practical guide for students working for higher degrees
on design, design and technology education and related fields such
as art and design, architecture and engineering. Not only does it
deal step-by-step with the process of planning and carrying through
an effective research project, it also explains why the rules of the
game are the way they are. The author de-mystifies academic study
and research in an accessible and engaging way.