Apologies for the silence here, but I’m writing up my PhD thesis at present and trying to get as much as possible done before an exciting new project starts in August (which I will tell you about in due course!). I won’t be able to get it all done before then, but am trying to get to a stage where the rest of it doesn’t seem insurmountable.

Writing up things you’ve been doing over the last 3 years is pretty boring. The trite advice given so often is to “write up as you go along” and while that might be partly wise, I’ve found that realistically, what I wrote 18 months ago is simply not usable in the thesis without massive alteration. Things change. The linear format of literature review -> planning the studies -> method -> results -> conclusion is very artificial when the studies you do end up leading you back to the literature, learning something else, doing more studies, and so on. I’m (re-)writing the literature review last of all in order to make it serve as a foundation for the later bits of the thesis, but I’m not entirely satisfied with this approach. It doesn’t reflect how the work was actually done, which (to me) is an important part of science. But the need to produce a document which overall is a thesis rather than a story or collection of published papers (which is permissible in some countries) suggests that I need to put such concerns aside, at least for the moment. I suppose it depends on if your work falls neatly into sections or separate projects which are substantially independent, or not. Mine unfortunately hasn’t worked out that way. Everything depends on everything else, pretty much.

So the blog may be quiet for another couple of months. And when it comes back, I think it needs something of a 5th-birthday-restructure to fit better with how it’s actually used. In the meantime, thank you so much to everyone who’s downloaded the latest Design with Intent cards or bought printed sets so far. You keep me motivated!


  1. Hi Dan,

    not sure if it helps, but in my thesis I have a bit after the result chapter called ‘post-empirical development’ to round things up, so that bit includes other literatures that I get into that have different focus to the initial literature review…

    Design research is hard to fit in with the science ones because we explore and change iteratively all the time. But I do think examiners know that nature of design as well, so really it is the reflection and critical understanding of what happened that is important, rather than a descriptive documentary of what happened in your work.

    And also don’t get trapped in details, there are things interesting to you but maybe not important in a 60000 thesis… you know what I mean, but the things you leave out can be turned into papers or conference presentations, so don’t let them go but do see priorities.

    Good luck 🙂


    • Dan

      Thanks Qin – very helpful advice! ‘Post-empirical development’ is a clever phrase.

      Would be very interested to read your thesis sometime of course. 🙂

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