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Thesis Research


Thesis Research is an independent examination that begins with the Thesis Proposal developed in Thesis Prep. It is a demonstration of the student's ability to conduct effective research using largely secondary sources, combining knowledge from one or more fields and applying it to understanding what architecture has been, is, and might become.

Thesis Research involves the construction of a critical context in which the Thesis Proposal is further investigated by the student. This context contains; inquiry, exploration, attitude, analysis, problem solving, methodology and theorization that culminates in a proposal with architectural implications. It should document the critical thinking and design research that will serve as the basis of Thesis Studio. The work done as part of the Thesis Research culminates in the Theorem which constitutes part I of the final Thesis Book and should be properly documented as such including its eventual formatting appropriate to the Thesis Book Guidelines.

Thesis Research Deliverables

The goal of Thesis Research is the Theorem; a well-researched, articulately written and illustrated examination of the Thesis Proposal that is intended to develop the student's individual architectural "voice". The Theorem serves as the intellectual grounding of the work done in the Thesis Studio.

Working from theory, humanities, history, cultural criticism, philosophy, music, art, etc. the successful Theorem should challenge us to question our convictions about architecture, urban design and/or their related fields. A Theorem demonstrating such creative understanding would be able to sustain critique at various levels of interpretation and enquiry.

In addition to this critical context the Theorem should also include the following:

  • Case Studies and Precedent Analysis- critical studies of precedents relevant to the basic idea of the Thesis. This may or may not be limited to architectural precedents. Precedents studies must include diagrammatic analysis of the key elements of the precedent significant to the Thesis. Photographs and plans do not constitute a precedent analysis.
  • Site Context- including site selection and its significance to the proposed project and documentation of site such as existing conditions, topological surveys, geographical, natural and historical patterns, physical and social patterns, pedestrian and vehicular patterns and connections and site potentials and constraints relative to the Thesis.
  • Site Analysis- critical and thoughtful analysis of contextual conditions of the site that can and should influence the Thesis. Methodologies of analysis can be diverse and should be relevant to the Thesis method and intentions but may include site 'Observations" such as: spatial analysis, isovists, physical character studies, material studies, context analysis, boundary, connection, relations patterns etc.
  • Analytical Diagrams- these are diagrams that assist in translating the key ideas and premises of the Thesis into graphic forms applicable in the Thesis Studio. They should be understood as a means of understanding the main ideas and communicating them in a non-verbal manner.
  • Program and Spatial Explorations- critical analysis of programmatic potentialities and implications of the Thesis Proposal. This should include the development of the 'program' for the Thesis, but also diagrams and 3D studies of organizational studies, spatial adjacency studies, connections and constraints, spatial patterns relative to the site and context.
  • Study Sketches- the students own drawings and sketches that constitute part of the design process.
  • Bibliography-. List sources of research, both secondary and primary. The bibliographical format shall be The Chicago Manual of Style.

Critical Thinking and Your Thesis

When engaged in Thesis Research the student should consider the following questions as a general guide.

  • What is the purpose of your Thesis? Every foray into research has a purpose your thesis is no different. What do you hope to gain by engaging in this research? What are your goals and expected outcomes? Research is scholarly and so should your thesis be. Formulate your purpose in terms of architecture, design and society not in terms of your own self interest.
  • What questions are you asking? Eventually you will want to formulate this as a question. All study is an attempt to find the answer to something. What is it that you are trying to answer? Your thesis should have one main directive question but that does not mean that there are not other sub questions that surround it or help to flesh it out. Can you list them? How do they serve the stated purpose?
  • What is your point of view or basic assumption about the subject matter? No endeavor is completely objective and without a voice or point of view or perspective. To pretend that you do not opens oneself to academic critique and suspicion. Acknowledge your assumptions, put them out there. We do this for several reasons. First our research may in the end challenge those assumptions particularly when we cannot square our findings with them. This is not a problem in fact it is proof of good research in fact the purpose of research sometimes. Secondly it lays out our biases up front and gets them out of the way. A reader can now look at your work for its logical consistency without the baggage of your claims to be neutral or objective. It also helps to focus critique on the rhetorical argument and its logic and not on your point of view.
  • What is your basic hypothesis? We shape out ideas and concepts about any subject based upon the facts and evidence we have collected. It is our experience that allows us to formulate an idea or concept that is the basis of our research.
  • What previous research exists on the topic? This is a literature review, a summary of the content of existing literature relevant to the subject and your research topic. Has anyone attempted the same approach? This obviously implies that you have already done a literature search on the topic and are familiar with some of the more important works on the subject.
  • What are the facts? All argumentation is based on facts either uncovered prior to research or during research. What are they? Clearly state the facts that you are basing the research on. This allows the reader to sink up with your thought process it also allows someone who knows additional facts or contradictory facts the chance to bring them to the table. For example, if your project is based upon previous research, but more recent research challenges this source it is better to know it up front.
  • What is your Methodology? Describe how you will pursue your research, including the critical and theoretical basis of your investigation. This section conveys how you will develop your argument. Understand that the subject matter plays an important role in the methodology, areas of investigation related to the social sciences or philosophy might require different methods than those of the hard sciences which require more empirical methods.
  • What precedents or case studies can you explore relevant to your subject matter? While it is basically assumed that precedent studies are architectural this is not always the case. In some instances the precedents may be related to the broader context of the Thesis, such as programmatic, organizational or institutional structures, sociological case studies, literary or musical structures, or artistic installations to name only a few.
  • What are your anticipated findings? Discuss what you hope your work will establish in both confirming the research statement and its application in the concrete test. Indicate what findings might disprove your statement. How would your project, or architecture in general, be altered if you proposal were fully developed and to what purpose?
  • What is your Thesis? Consequently, when your research is concluded you will derive interpretations from it. These form new or more detailed concepts of the subject matter at hand.
  • What inferences, interpretations or conclusions are you deriving from your research? List them and explain them and their relevance. These should have consequences or implications. Tell your audience what you believe them to be.

Evaluation and Progression to Thesis Studio

The Architecture Program at SPSU regards Thesis Research and the Theorem as an important phase of the Thesis process and a vital threshold in establishing whether the student has demonstrated the necessary critical thinking and design research skills necessary to proceed to the Thesis Studio.

During the fall semester the student will present their Thesis Research in three formal reviews attended by their full Thesis Committee. Those reviews will be scheduled around the following key dates in the Academic Calendar for each semester:

  1. Student Engagement Report
  2. Midterm Grade
  3. Finals Week

After each review the Thesis Committee members will provide the student with written comments and an evaluation of their progress in the form of an Evaluation Sheet. At the end of the semester the Thesis Committee, Chaired by the Thesis Adviser, will make an assessment as to whether the student's progress warrants their continuation into the Thesis Studio.

If the Thesis Committee determines that the student has not made sufficient progress the student will not be allowed to continue to Thesis Studio and will have to repeat the Thesis Research component of the Thesis process.

All Students registering for Thesis Studio must have an approved Theorem signed off by all Thesis Committee members and a grade of C or better in ARCH 4014.