Domain and Discipline: Urban Research



This lecture shall focus on the content of thesis inquiry and the thesis question? You all must have gone through an undergraduate design dissertation or so called ‘thesis’ mainly focused on a few parameters that are subjected to design demonstration. It is seen very often that the parameterswhichare employed are within the realm of the project or is a thesis inquiry that has a design project as a response. These parameters are not subjected to any further inquiry, which would enable the transition from project to thesis. So today’s presentation shall articulate, how to move towards formulating the thesis question andhow to expand the urban question from various influencing forces.


What is Master’s thesis and how is it different from your undergraduate thesis inquiry

First and foremost, the undergraduate thesis inquiry often requires to expand the architectural questions that are destined towards distinct architectural projects. Master’s thesis is required to set the research parameter so as to expand the urban question, which inturn would enable the various scenarios for urban quality of life.



There are three kinds of knowledge systems through which we set the research question. The first system of knowledge is our ‘world view’. The world view is often triggered by our own circumstances, our cultural and social background which would shape ourworld view, very often collective in nature. The knowledge is shared and engaged collectively. For example, Rituals, Customs, Behaviour, dialect, myth, historic narratives etc.

The second type of knowledge system is learned through an academic environment, which is imparted methodically and conditioned by systematic learning. The knowledge system is rational in nature and often conditioned by the context of academic environment.

The third type of knowledge often remains un-articulated within many of us, due to limitations of the first two types of knowledge inquiry. It is built through discipline inquiry, depending on the hunger for knowledge and urges to carry out the investigation. It also requires patience, knowledge resources and very importantly objectivity and critical spirit.


So the knowledge system is divided into three compartments, as in, Experience domain, Learning Domain and Inquiry Domain. The first one is conditioned by its virtue of existence, second is conditioned by virtue of institutional systems and third is facilitated by one’s ability ask large question. In order to be able to ask large questions, one needs to assimilate the limitations of the first two compartments. Also one has to be conscious of such limitations and be able to de-code them methodically.


There are intermediate steps between these compartments to de-code the knowledge system.

  • We ought to know!Is compulsive knowledge (never argue with elderly) normative in nature?             
  • What to do? Is assistive knowledge(guiding you towards adherence)prescriptive in nature?
  • Why is itso? Is the first stage of inquiry analytical in nature?
  • What is going on there? Is the second stage of inquiry (to look for other possibilities)descriptive in nature
  • What do we need to know? Is raising questions objectively and critically Inquiry | Enquiry in nature?


Discipline Engagement

  • Intra discipline is about going deep into one discipline for inquiry. Example: Architectural History.Cross Discipline is trying to view onesown discipline through other disciplines. Example: Architectural History through Sociology or Gender.Multi Discipline is about engaging and sharing knowledge of various disciplines. Example: Architectural History through Social, Cultural, Anthropological or Political perspectiveInter-Discipline attempts to integrate knowledge of various disciplines for action. Example: Writing of Architectural History with various disciplines
  • Trans-Discipline goes into the realm of conceptual framework for action. Example: What has influenced or caused the Architectural History of Roman Empire.


So how does research question get framed?

Is it always the beginning of carrying out the Master’s or Research Thesis. The answers is ‘no’. One can enter the system of inquiry through various channels, but it requires objectivity and critical spirit to the data that one gathers and processes towards framing a question resonating the personal interest in the broad area.


In order to operationalize the objectivity and the critical spirit, one needs to enable two channels-‘Urban Thinking’ and ‘Urban Knowledge’.

Urban Thinking is about the way we perceive and mobilize our cognitive responses to the situation, Urban Knowledge is the intellectual capacity for conceptual response or ability to represent that situation. Urban Thinking thrives on discipline knowledge and various-discipline knowledge for ability to discern the gap, conflicts and issues in the epistemic understanding of discipline. Urban Knowledge raises larger urban questions.


This slide is about broad categories of thesis or research questions. However the overlaps are often inevitable. But one needs to clearly articulate the nature of inquiry and area of interest at the beginning.


Both approaches demand different sets of approach. The first set requires a multi-scalar approach, while the second set requires multi-sectorial approach.


This slide graphically explains the nature of questions, domain of inquiry, complexity of data and knowledge required to bridge, in order to mobilize probable scenarios and demonstration.

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