John Zeisel finishes Inquiry by Design (1984) with the following statement:
Research is a purposeful, systematic way to improve knowledge. Design can also contribute to a body of knowledge when designers commit themselves to share what they know, when they approach design problems as opportunities to learn what they do not know, and when they make design decisions that contribute to inquiry.
In this class, we are concerned with the first item in the list -- "when designers commit themselves to share what they know." As a designer, you will share with clients, colleagues, collaborators, and even the public (seen the ASLA's summer internships for city-writer guides? Here's the summer 2013 for Boston, and the Washington DC Guide they are looking to replicate). You know you'll have to write proposals and reports; you may decide to write for blogs and newsletters. The goal of this class is to get you started by laying out principles that guide writing -- principles that maximize the likelihood that readers will understand what you intend them to understand.
Writing principles come in two flavors:
general cognitive principles governing language comprehension and production
discipline-specific principles governing how information is structured in your field
These principles intersect your writing style to produce the unique "voice" you'll have in your field. My job in this class is to help you recognize your writing style and make it work given the communication conventions of Landscape Architecture and Design.
To accomplish these goals, we start with a heavy dose of challenging reading -- you'll then add literature of your own choosing to write a literature review of a some design concept. Next, you'll apply some idea/s from the lit review to a local design object in order to write a Case Analysis. This whole project gives you the opportunity to study how academic articles are constructed, to read for general and specific meanings, to synthesize according to a particular point of view, and then to apply that POV to an actual design. Everyone begins reading the same articles for this project, so there will be lots of class discussion, but each of you may choose a different designed space to interpret for the case study. The final step will be adding a design/planning element wherein you add your creative spin.
The final project requires that you conduct some kind of real environment-behavioral-social-sciences research. To do so, you'll need to develop a project or use (your own) existing data. The annotated bibliography will help structure the Introduction and Discussion sections of the Research Report. The outcomes of your research will lead to a short proposal for a bigger or more focused project. You'll pitch your project orally to the class. Along the way, we'll study various principles and apply them to drafting, peer review, and revising.
We will use Sakai for submitting assignments, for the blog assignments, and sometimes for storing Resources. Otherwise, the class will be run through this web site, which is available on the open web (no password needed). I will write it as we go along this semester, so don't panic if you don't see everything up yet! This is the first time this class has been taught, so in the spirit of Zeisel, we will be studying and amending design as we go!
When communicating by email, please begin the subject line with "land design plan" (or LDP). I prefer to answer student emails first, but since a lot of stuff gets into my inbox, using our class in the subject line allows me to find you faster. While we are on the subject of email, please be aware that I communicate via email a lot, so check your inbox for messages. Also, if you use the "reply" function to send a message and the topic of the message is different from the topic of the original email, change the subject to reflect the actual content of the message!
Attendance is critical in a skills class. We will spend class time talking, sharing writing, learning new skills, experimenting with writing stuff -- for all of this to work, you need to be here.
Revision is essential to good writing. To maintain my integrity as an editor/instructor and your sanity as a student, all assignments can be revised to our mutual satisfaction. All revisions will be due the last day of class.