A reader’s guide to my PhD thesis

PhD theses are unusual documents, often (in the UK at least) written and revised primarily to satisfy arbitrary academic examination criteria rather than to be readable. That is certainly the case here: as the author, I am proud of having done the PhD, but not particularly enamoured of the thesis in the form it was finally approved. My main aim with the whole project was to do research that was actually useful to designers, and communicating it is a large part of that. So it disappoints me to have to put out something so hard to read. I had naïvely assumed that my clients for the research were designers, when in fact the clients were the examiners.

You will see, if you try to read the thesis ‘straight through’, that it has an awkward structure, with the methodology separated from the work that was actually done, also meaning a lot of repetition; equally, very little of the actual content of the toolkit, or the multidisciplinary background to it, is discussed within the thesis.

So here’s one possible suggestion for the bits to read if you want to read some of it, in an order that actually reflects how the work was done – I think it makes most sense to treat it like a kind of open product development process. Not sure if it will save time on reading it, though!:

Framing the problem Introduction to the challenge of influencing more sustainable behaviour through design. Chapter 1 (p.23 on)
Brief Identifying the research questions which the project should address Section 2.3 (p.58 on)
Background research Approaches to behaviour in different disciplines, and how they could be applicable in design. Section 2.2 (p.40 on), plus I recommend reading these working papers, which provide a more detailed background – to me this is the most interesting part of the whole work. It’s not currently presented very well, but I’ll try to remedy that over time.
Background on toolkits and idea generation Sections 2.3.3 and 2.4 (p.61 on)
Some ethical considerations Section 6.4 (p.240 on).
Internal prototypes Design with Intent toolkit v.0.1-0.7 Section 4.1 (p.114 on), then Section 5.1 (p.170 on)
Pilot study with Design with Intent toolkit v.0.8 Section 3.5.1 (p.101), then Section 4.2 (p.124 on) and then Section 5.2 (p.172 on). This paper from Persuasive 2009 sums it up more succinctly.
Initial public release Design with Intent toolkit v.0.9 DwI v.0.9
Workshops using Design with Intent toolkit v.0.9 Section 3.5.1 (p.101), then Section 4.3 (p.133 on) and then Section 5.3 (p.176 on). This Applied Ergonomics article provides a worked example, and a paper accepted for The Design Journal, to be published in 2014, describes the workshop studies more succinctly – please email me for a copy.
Main public release Design with Intent toolkit v.1.0 DwI v.1.0
Workshops and case studies with Design with Intent toolkit v.1.0 Section 3.5.1 (p.102), Section 3.5.2 (p.103), Section 4.4 (p.143 on), Section 5.4 (p.200 on), and Section 5.4.5 (p.217 on)
Modelling users as part of the DwI process This article from the Journal of Design research, then Section 4.4.1 (p.147) and Section 4.4.2 (p.161)
Evaluation Insights from survey of early users of DwI v.1.0, implications for further development, and reflection on the process Section 3.5.3 (p.104), then Section 5.4.4 (p.208 on), then Section 4.5 (p.162 on), and then Chapter 6 (p.227 on)
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