Thesis Studio I

Instructor Aaron Ganci
Office hours by appointment or via Skype
Office: HR 154
Institution Herron School of Art and Design, IUPUI
Courses HER V691
Section 32212
Time MW 3:00-5:30pm
Location HR 136


Introduction to the theory, methods and skills for developing and constructing a research project plan. Focusing on techniques for the integration and application of concepts and theories into a concise project plan including a clear methodology and research design.

This is the first of two courses that compose a year long experience of initiating and conducting a specified design research process in order to frame, refine, and engage a researchable question.

Work focuses on developing skills for moving from a framed design research question to an actionable project plan. Emphasis is placed on understanding contextual factors that may affect the research plan and choosing an appropriate context whithin which to conduct the design research project.

The cross-disciplinary research activities are directed to leverage knowledge, resources and perspectives across the entire university and public communities. All investigations occur within a territory that advances the role of design thinking in business innovation, organizational leadership, public policy, social advocacy and direct democracy.


Course is required for all majors in the M.F.A. degree program in Visual Communication. This course requires co-requisite enrollment in HER—V 690 / Thesis Writing.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course, students will be able to:

  • Apply creative problem solving process knowledge and process skills to framing a researchable question and developing a design research project plan in an effort to provide relevant solutions to the real underlying problems that people encounter.
  • Identify, comprehend and apply design processes & design process skills for interdisciplinary collaborative action research by identifying patterns & framing insights, exploring ideas and conceiving plans, prototyping & optimizing proposals, and implementing solutions.
  • Identify, comprehend and apply specific synthetic methodologies to yield specific types of data sets to support various phases of a people-centered design process including design research, design analysis, design synthesis and design evaluation.
  • Perform basic management practices including the ability to organize design projects and to work productively as a member of teams.
  • Communicate effectively in visual, written and oral presentations and demonstrate the ability to analyze and evaluate visual, written and oral presentations of others.

Course Content

Creative Problem Solving Process KNOWLEDGE about

  • research and analysis
  • planning implementation
  • implementing plans

Creative Problem Solving Process SKILLS for

  • conducting divergent thinking
  • deferring judgment
  • conducting convergent thinking
  • meeting in teams

Design evaluation and optimization tools and techniques

  • user studies
  • criteria grids
  • paired comparison analysis


Week Class Topic
1 25-27 Aug

No Class: Instructors at NordDesign 2014

2 1 Sep No Class: Labor day
3 Sep Course overview and schedule; what is action research, how to start formulating a plan.
3 8-10 Sep Preliminary investigation complete (in Writing); Discussion about topic development; what is a researchable question?
4 15-17 Sep Participant recruitment and discussion of early research plan
5 22-24 Sep Research topic well defined; Start forming committee; (Semi-Final Proposal due in Writing)
6 29 Sep-1 Oct Conduct first exploratory research method
7 6-8 Oct Analysis of first exploratory session; discuss impact on research question
8 13-15 Oct TBD
9 20 Oct No class: Fall Break
22 Oct Conduct second exploratory method
10 27-29 Oct Committee established
11 3-5 Nov Analysis and discussion of second method
12 10-12 Nov Conduct second exploratory method
13 17-19 Nov Analysis and discussion of third method
14 24 Nov TBD
26 Nov No Class: Thanksgiving
15 1-3 Dec *Possible Poster Session*
16 8-10 Dec TBD
16.5 15 Dec TBD


Your grade will be broken down into the categories below*. Participation includes: being present and on time, asking and answering questions, helping to improve understanding of course content for others. Your full attention is expected during class time.

Category % of total
Initiating and conducting the specified design research process; Creating a successful action research plan 30%
Conducting exploratory research 40%
Keeping and updated process blog 10%
Participation in discussions and support of colleagues 10%
Participation in poster session 10%

*Categories and percentage breakdown subject to change.

How Attendance might impact your grade

Attendance is important and expected. The structure of this class calls for inconsistent meeting times. As the semester moves on, it will be important for you to establish your own schedule and plan activities accordingly. However, when the instructor requests a specific meeting time for the full group, you are expected to be in attendance. If you are unable to attend, documentation for your absence will be required.

Grading scale
A+ 100-98
A 97-93
A- 92-90
B+ 89-87
B 86-83
B- 82-80
C+ 79-77
C 76-73
C- 72-70
D+ 69-67
D 66-63
D- 62-60
F 59-0


Herr, Kathryn and Gary Anderson. 2014 The Action Research Dissertation: A Guide for Students and Faculty (second edition) (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. 2008. The craft of research. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)

Turabian, Kate L., Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. 2013. A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago Style for students and researchers. (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)

The Chicago manual of style (16th ed.). 2010. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)

Sanders, Elizabeth B.-N., and Pieter Jan Stappers. 2012. Convivial design toolbox: generative research for the front end of design. Amsterdam: BIS. (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)

Kumar, Vijay. 2013. 101 design methods a structured approach for driving innovation in your organization. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley. (Amazon, IUPUI WorldCat)


General Course Policies

All university approved course policies apply to this course. To reference the policies about course withdrawal, disabilities, academic integrity, and more, please see

Academic Integrity

Pay careful attention to the university policies on Academic misconduct. Cheating, fabrication, dishonesty, interference, and especially plagiarism will not be tolerated in this course. You can find more information about these topics in Indiana University's Code of Student Rights, Responsibilites, and Conduct.

Other important links

  • For students with documented disabilities, please visit Adaptive Educational Services.
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  • Here are links to the 2014 Academic Calendar and Finals schedule.