DE7027 - Professional Practice Design Research

What will I learn on this module?

Through a combination of lectures and seminar discussions you will engage with academics and other practitioners to examine how professional knowledge can be constructed and defended. These activities will help you define a research problem, formulate a research statement, and form the clear and critical research question that will guide and inform your doctoral project. You will examine the nature of practice-led research from the perspective of design and consider how to effectively develop concepts, use theoretical frameworks and apply reflective approaches to support the development, undertaking, and successful completion of a practice-led and practice-based design research project. You will appraise how the development of evidence enables an analysis of the saliency or usefulness of emerging practices and how a practice context can develop evidence about how design integrates with other change agents to build intelligence for strategic decision making and systemic change.

The core of the module will enable you to learn key contemporary design theoretical approaches that will be applied to your professionally related thesis subject. In this regard, you will cover key and distinctive theoretical and conceptual subjects and approaches such as redirective practice, a body of thought which cultivates and inspires a self-reflective and ultimately transformative design attitude and practice. You will also learn socially and environmentally responsible innovation, design for strategy and social development and design ethics. These topics and knowledge forms will enable you to conceptualise your practical experience in a contemporary manner that stresses the transformative role that designers have and therefore facilitates a viable and relevant research topic and research process strategy. Furthermore, you will learn the principles of key research methods such as key qualitative approaches (unstructured and semi-structured interviews, textual and material analysis, focus groups, and key ethnographic approaches) and quantitative methods and data analysis principles (surveys, for example). You will also engage with the ethics of research, which are a fundamental component of research and engagement with the social world.

Finally, you will be taught effective research proposal design, an essential aspect of the programme that will assist you in formulating a clear and original design-based doctoral subject, which will be the basis of your subsequent study for the duration of the doctoral programme and which will result in the production of an original research project that enhances professional design practice and produces fresh design-oriented critical knowledge.

How will I learn on this module?

You will learn within tutor-led lecture sessions that are devoted to specific topics on a week-by-week basis, and seminar-style discussions that will enable you to work effectively in groups in order to immediately discuss and evaluate questions and debates drawn from the aspects of professional design theoretical principles and research methods discussed by the module tutor. Taught and workshop sessions can be delivered in face-to-face teaching environments and/or via online provision through platforms such as Panopto and Blackboard Collaborate to facilitate synchronous and asynchronous teaching and learning provision.

How will I be supported academically on this module?

You will be supported through module information and teaching materials available through the ELP system in addition to an online Library Reading List that contains numerous eBooks, online journal articles and digitised chapters to ensure that you will have access to numerous learning materials for lecture and workshop tasks and the module assessment. Additionally, outside of formal teaching sessions, you will have access to tutors via tutorial slots and you can raise any issues with the tutor via email.

What will I be expected to read on this module?

All modules at Northumbria include a range of reading materials that students are expected to engage with. The reading list for this module can be found at:
(Reading List service online guide for academic staff this containing contact details for the Reading List team –

What will I be expected to achieve?

Knowledge & Understanding:
1. An understanding of the key principles of doctoral research and practice-led research from the perspective of design.

2. Critical knowledge of core design-related research methods.

3. The ability to recognize the applicability (and potential limitations) of methods relating to an appropriate doctoral research subject.

Intellectual / Professional skills & abilities:
1. The ability to examine and evaluate differing theoretical and conceptual design ideas.

2. The ability to formulate clear research questions and articulate and synthesize a research plan into a coherent and viable doctoral-level research proposal.

Personal Values Attributes (Global / Cultural awareness, Ethics, Curiosity) (PVA):
1. The generation of original research ideas and research questions.

2. An understanding of the core ethical principles that underscore and inform research activity and planning.

How will I be assessed?


1. Critical Appraisal: students will develop an understanding of a complex professional context, reflexively positioning design theory to identify challenges, inadequacies and opportunities for positive strategic change (3000 words).

The assessment will address MLOs:

K&U 1, 2

2. Doctoral research proposal (2000 words): a focused proposal that communicates the research question, methodological approach and the substantive focus of the doctoral research (written thesis or practice-based).

The assessment will address MLOs:

K&U 1, 3
Feedback will be provided to you electronically through the Turnitin system.





Module abstract

The Doctorate of Design is concerned with issues and challenges that practitioners face and their complex situations of practice and with the generation of new, professionally focused design research and so this module will give you the knowledge and skills to produce such research. The module will teach you relevant design theories and research methods that will provide a foundation from which you will be able to conduct original research and produce original and professionally inspired knowledge.

In this module, you will critically engage with a range of issues, approaches and methods relating to doctoral research planning. You will be introduced to apposite design theory, ideas and debates related to professional settings that are complex, messy, and often conflicting interactions of personal, social, commercial, technical, and environmental and political considerations. You will learn to examine this complexity identifying inadequacies in current practice approaches and opportunities to enhance the strategic value of your practice. You will be introduced to research methods appropriate to your professional context that will allow you to explore the identified inadequacies or opportunities. Through this module you are guided to develop your own research proposal which you will pursue as the central component of your professional doctorate.

Course info

Credits 30

Level of Study Postgraduate

Mode of Study 2 Years Full Time
1 other options available

Department Arts

Location City Campus, Northumbria University

City Newcastle

Fee Information

Module Information

All information is accurate at the time of sharing.

Full time Courses starting in 2023 are primarily delivered via on-campus face to face learning but may include elements of online learning. We continue to monitor government and local authority guidance in relation to Covid-19 and we are ready and able to flex accordingly to ensure the health and safety of our students and staff.

Contact time is subject to increase or decrease in line with additional restrictions imposed by the government or the University in the interest of maintaining the health and safety and wellbeing of students, staff, and visitors, potentially to a full online offer, should further restrictions be deemed necessary in future. Our online activity will be delivered through Blackboard Ultra, enabling collaboration, connection and engagement with materials and people.


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