The dissertation plays an essential role in the development of students’ intellectual capabilities and resources, and forms an important vehicle through which the skills of scholarship and research are cultivated and tested. It provides students with the opportunity to develop their own architectural interests through the pursuit of research, scholarship and written argument. The preparation and presentation of a dissertation of around 10,000 words provides the opportunity to take this study to some depth.

The learning outcomes of the dissertation include the understanding of the complex influences on the contemporary built environment of individual buildings, the design of cities, past and present societies and wider global issues. Furthermore, during their work on the dissertation, students get an opportunity to learn about histories and theories of architecture and urban design, the history of ideas, and the related disciplines of art, cultural studies and landscape studies and their application in critical debate. These conceptual tools allow them to understand more about the complex inter-relationships between humans, non-humans, buildings and the environment. These are studied by means of various methods and approaches, including interviews, surveys, field observations, and archival data, as well as wider reading of literature.

Students begin work on their dissertations within small groups that are aligned to a stated theme or methodology, and progressively develop their individual critical abilities. Thanks to their work on a dissertation, students increase their architectural vocabularies through exposure to, and discussion of, a wide range of issues relating to the built environment.