Four of my typewriters including an Olivetti Valentina (top left, festooned with chickens), a Smith-Corona with a drawing of itself, an Underwood with its manual, and an East German Robotron with a print of a Stasi (East German surveillance) office. Oh. And a plant.

Reading, writing, and research for the design grad student

How to stay ahead and afloat when you’ve got a lot to read and write

Readings & reading strategies for grad students

You’ll quickly discover that reading for graduate school is different than reading a book for pleasure. While the readings might be long, wordy, and written in academic language, you can follow strategies to get successfully get through the readings. The goal is to find ways to move at a steady pace, follow the key ideas and arguments, and then be able to delve in detail at a later point, when you write your blog posts or papers for the class.

Writing is design

Resources for writing

CMU’s Global Communication Center can help you with writing at the graduate level. They’re great. They can be good to work with one-on-one as you’re developing the arguments you’ll make in your short and long papers. In addition,

For non-native English speakers

If you speak English as a second (third, fourth, fifth) language, there are resources that will help you in your writing. CMU’s Intercultural Communication Center has useful resources for non-native speakers of English. They offer workshops and resources in writing, speaking, and US academic culture.

Academic integrity & plagiarism

The point of this class is to develop and situate your own ideas in a broader discourse — and in order to do that properly, you need to cite your work. No form of academic dishonesty will be tolerated. When you use words, images, videos — even ideas and thoughts that are not yours and that you do not credit or properly cite, you are guilty of plagiarism. Do not cut and paste from other sources, even into your own notes, without keeping some system that tells you exactly where your work came from. For your weekly posts, you must cite, and you must not use words without attribution. This includes paraphrasing. Use Chicago style to cite your work in your papers. We will discuss research tools that can make this easier for you. CMU’s policies are available here for your review.

Writing on Medium

Medium’s help page is quite useful for getting started on Medium. You may want to refer to it as you get started with your posts. You’ll notice ways to write and comment (publicly and privately).

Becoming a Stronger Writer

As you write a research paper for this class (and for some of you, as you start thinking about thesis), you are investigating a topic that captures your curiosity. Research papers are built on a web of evaluation and response to other people’s work. As you define your topic, you’ll probably learn that you’re not the first person to be interested in it—and that’s good! The work of research is to situate your topic within that of other scholars and designers, to pick up their questions and arguments, and to engage with them. This is one of the reasons that good sources and citation is important: to show where you stand within this web.

Engage your sources

It could be said that there’s no truth—there’s only argument (which is itself arguable). As you read and take notes, engage your sources. Booth et al in Craft of Research advise that you look for creative agreement or creative disagreement. (Chapter 6.4, p. 88–91). For instance, “Source claims that __________ is changing, but it’s not. It doesn’t say that it’s staying the same as follows: ______.” Or “Source correctly applies ________ to one situation, but you apply it to new ones.”

Write better arguments

This is the part of Craft of Research I keep returning to. All of Part 3, from pages 105–170 is useful and important. When you start getting ready to assemble your argument, you’ll want to revisit it (page 130 offers ways to organize your reasons and evidence and make sure that they match up.

Molly Wright Steenson

Written by

K&L Gates Associate Professor of Ethics & Computational Technologies @ CMU/School of Design. Author of Architectural Intelligence (MIT Press 2017).