Dear Patrick and Gunnar,
I think it's helpful to look at the purpose of a thesis in academia.
The main purpose of any thesis is for the candidate to demonstrate their
competence at sound reasoning. This includes the skills of being able to
choose sound assumptions and construct a logical sequence of steps to a
conclusion with no fallacies, whilst scrupulously avoiding sophist
manipulation. This use of a thesis or term paper is found at all levels of
education. Writing a thesis is a means of testing this competence in
reasoning that all Masters students are expected to possess. In Design
disciplines, this competence in reasoning is required in many professional
as well as academic aspects of designers' skills. For example, it is
essential in being able to competently understand a brief; to be able to
discuss outcomes with clients; to be able to understand and draw on new
knowledge and techniques; to be able to competently understand and use
contracts etc. These are practical skills that differentiate a professional
from an amateur. Reasoning provides the basis for them and a written thesis
tests candidates' competence in reasoning skills.
I find it also helpful to distinguish between the research competencies of
Masters and PhD awards. A distinction I find helpful is:
* Masters - to demonstrate competence in a specified range of
practitioner skills, including the correct application of a research
technique done independently under supervision.
* PhD - to demonstrate competence in the practitioner skills to manage
and operate a research protocol independently under supervision, and IN
ADDITION to demonstrate competence in the skills of creating a NEW
well-justified research protocol.
This latter is part of the reason why PhD candidates are required to tackle
a new research problem or create new knowledge, and why the research
methodology section of a PhD thesis is carefully scrutinised. It is the
ability to be able to create from scratch a research protocol for a specific
research problem that marks the essential difference between a PhD and a
Masters. It requires epistemological and ontological skills in addition to
practical skills in using research methods.
Dr. Terence Love
Tel/Fax: +61 (0)8 9305 7629
Mobile: 0434975 848
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From: PhD-Design - This list is for discussion of PhD studies and related
research in Design [mailto:[log in to unmask]] On Behalf Of Swanson,
Sent: Saturday, 17 February 2007 10:17 PM
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Subject: what is a masters thesis?
> masters level thesis.
> My personal belief is the?> paper can/should be at?> the 10,000-20,000
Since you're talking about an MFA, I'm not sure how you can consider the
written component in a vacuum. An MFA curriculum does not lead specifically
to a piece of research writing and certainly should not concentrate on that
as the primary outcome. Since it is a studio degree, how does this writing
mesh with the production of graphic design?
I'm inferring that a desire for greater intellectual content and more
rigorous consideration of design is behind your question (and I support
that) but I wonder why a studio degree should be shoehorned into academic
assumptions better fit for other sorts of practice. If design research is
not the central point of the degree like it would be for a PhD, why a model
of production divorced from the major curriculum and from the practice that
is the nature of the degree?
ps: Do you think of the MDes degree as different from an MFA in some
fundamental way or do you think the difference is just in a design school
vs. an art school offering the degree?
Gunnar Swanson Design Office
1910 East 6th Street
Greenville, North Carolina 27858
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+1 252 258 7006
at East Carolina University:
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+1 252 328 2839