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Engineering Design Centre

Engineering Design Reading Club (RC15)


Engineering Design Reading Club (RC15)

Engineering Design Reading Club (RC15)

The RC15 course will next run in Lent 2019. This is a draft schedule to give potential students an indication of structure and content. Changes will be made prior to the course starting.  --  September, 2018




Note: Students wishing to take this course for credit should email the module leader before the course starts to be added to the participant list.


Leader: Nathan Crilly (

Timing: Lent Term 2019. Wednesday's 10:00-12:00

Location: Sir Arthur Marshall Room, EDC Ashby Lab, Inglis Building, CUED

Participants: Bo Kang (, Nick Boddy (, Eugenia O’Kelly (

Structure: Eight two-hour sessions

Mode of Assessment: Coursework



The Engineering Design Reading Club (RC15) facilitates discussion on a broad range of topics relevant to design research. Specificially, the course aims to:

  • introduce a range of contemporary and classic literature broadly related to Engineering Design,
  • promote a range of conceptual stances and methodological approaches broadly related to Engineering Design,
  • encourage and support critical reflection about the design process, design research and research communication,
  • provide experience of synthesising arguments based on the literature and debating different points of view.



The course is made up of a series of discussions centred on the assigned reading. Graduate students taking this course for credit towards their first year requirements should notify the module leader in advance of the first session and are required to actively participate in all of the reading club sessions. Their attendance and contribution will be noted each time.

Selected papers are listed on this page (scroll down) and finalised at least one week before the associated session. Students are required to read the texts fully before the session, and might be called on to (1) summarise all or parts of the texts, (2) comment on the conceptual, and methodological aspects of the text, (3) make connections to other literature, and (4) describe the text's relevance to current trends in research, industry and education. Simply attending the session is not sufficient to gain credit. The texts cover a broad range of approaches and students might find that they cannot fully understand each text depending on their particular background (e.g. they might lack the necessary philosophical, methodological or mathematical knowledge for some texts). However, students should still engage with each text as fully as possible, noting sections that they don't understand or have questions about.  

Individual facilitators have recommended the papers and will be on hand to guide the discussion. Sessions typically start with each participant offering brief comments on the paper. Discussions often centre on the specifics of each text but also relate more broadly to issues of research design, research conduct, data presentation, graphing, writing, etc. Making connections across the texts from different sessions is also encouraged.



Assessment of each student's performance on the course will be based on two elements:

(1) The student's contribution to the session. Attendance at all sessions is expected and faciliators will report to the module leader with comments on the contributions made to the discussion. If students have a legitimate reason to miss a session then they are required to produce a well-written 1000 word document addressing points 1-4 above. This should be emailed to the session facillitator (copying the module leader) within one week of the session that was missed.

(2) The student's reflection on the sessions and the course overall. Each students must write a 100 word reflection at the end of each session and send it by email to the module leader before the next session (with message header: "RC15 reflection"). Your reflection should briefly describe (i) what you learnt from the session (e.g. from the literature, method, findings, writing, group discussion, disagreements, etc.) and (ii) how that might relate to your own research (e.g. how it might be planned, conducted, communicated, etc.). At the end of the course, students must write a 1000 word essay on what they learnt from the course and send it by email to the module leader before the end of the Lent term (with message header: "RC15 essay"). This esssay should synthesise what you learnt from the course that is most relevant to your own research. It is perfectly acceptable to reuse some or all of the previous reflection documents for this.


SCHEDULE for 2018


Week 1 (January 23rd): "Design theory" 

Facilitator: Dr Nathan Crilly (

Text 1: Simon, H. A. (1988). The Science of Design: Creating the Artificial. Design Issues, 4(1/2): 67–82.
Text 2: Rittel, H. W. J. & Webber, M. M. (1973) Dilemmas in a general theory of planning, Policy Sciences, 4(2): 155-169.
Notes: Two texts that are often cited in discussions about the nature of design, and they take very different perspectives. From Simon, a chapter that draws out some of the key ideas about design and science from his book (The Sciences of the Artificial). From Rittel & Webber, a description of what it is about many design problems that makes them so difficult to address and solve. We'll discuss both texts in the session, looking into what design is and what the relationship is between research, science, problem solving and design. To help you understand the texts better, please look up who the authors were and the influence of their work. As with the other texts below, please do additional reading for terms and authors that are unknown to you.

Week 2: "System Design"

Facilitator: Dr Alexander Komashie (

Text 1: Keating, C., Rogers, R., Unal, R., Dryer, D., Souza-Poza, A., Safford, R., Peterson, W. and Rabadi, G. (2003) System of Systems Engineering. Engineering Management Journal, 15(3): 36–45.

Text 2: Checkland, P. (1989) Soft Systems Methodology. Human Systems Management, 8(4): 273-289.

Notes: It is generally agreed that the majority of human needs -- health, food, transportation and others -- are most effectively met by systems and often systems of systems. Approaches to designing these systems, however, have evolved over the years and have been the subject of various debates. These two papers present us with some of the factors that have driven this evolution and provide us an opportunity to enter the debate from our own perspectives, experiences, interests and observations. The session will focus on discussing Keating et al.'s argument for a System of Systems Engineering approach and Checkland's argument for a Soft Systems Methodology and explore how they can be complimentary. Before the session, please read a bit around the ideas in the two papers and come with some thoughts for how these may apply to your own research.


Week 3: "TBC - Healthcare Research"

Facilitator: TBC - Dr James Ward (




Week 4: "Crowdsourcing" - Taking place in the EDC Loft Meeting room

Faciliator: Jason Jacques (

Text: Gadiraju, U., Kawase, R., Dietze, S., & Demartini, G. (2015). Understanding Malicious Behavior in Crowdsourcing Platforms: The Case of Online Surveys. In Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (pp. 1631–1640). New York, NY, USA: ACM.

Notes: This paper offers an interesting perspective on how quality control can be managed for tasks which involve human participants (the authors use the example of a survey, a common crowdsourced microtask). The paper concludes with a number of task design guidelines surmised from the results, and offers a chance to consider how the variability of human behaviour can impact the design process. Please consider how the research results are presented and any issues relating to research ethics).


Week 5: "Design Computing"

Facilitator: Dr Timos Kipouros (

Text 1: Daniels, J., Werner, P. W., Bahill, A. T. (2001). Quantitative Methods for Tradeoff Analyses. Systems Engineering 4(3):190-212.

Text 2: Simpson, T. W., Martins, J. R. R. A. (2011). Multidisciplinary Design Optimization for Complex Engineered Systems: Report From a National Science Foundation Workshop. Journal of Mechanical Design 133(10):101002-1-101002-10.

Notes: The authors of the first paper encourage the idea to use quantitative methods and tools to support decision making in engineering design by satisfying the stakeholder requirements. They present a systems view and the reader should identify any potential weaknesses in the proposed approach. The authors of the second paper, which was published 10 years later, present the captured needs from an NSF workshop that will enable enhanced integration of quantitative approaches in engineering design. Can you identify the bottlenecks in achieving this and also come with new proposals?


Week 6: "Dimension Reduction"

Facilitator: Dr Pranay Seshadri (

Text: R. D. Cook, (2007) "Fisher Lecture: Dimension Reduction in Regression", Statistical Science, 22(1).

Notes: Model-based parameter studies are ubiquitous in engineering design. These models can range from a benign linear equation to a set of partial differential equations. In general, the greater the number of parameters, the tougher the inference regardless of whether the objective is a sensitivity study of the various parameters, an optimisation across the parameters or a design of experiment analysis. In this paper we explore a few ideas for reducing the dimensionality of such models.


Week 7: "Qualitative methods"

Facilitator: Dr Roxana Morosanu (

Text 1: Haines, Victoria, Val Mitchell, Catherine Cooper, and Martin Maguire. 2007. “Probing User Values in the Home Environment within a Technology Driven Smart Home Project.” Personal and Ubiquitous Computing 11(5):349–59.

Text 2: Celikoglu, Ozge Merzali, Sebnem Timur, and Klaus Krippendorff. 2017. “How Do User Stories Inspire Design? A Study of Cultural Probes.” Design Issues 33(2):84–98.

Notes: Cultural probes are part of the qualitative research methods that are employed in design and in design research. The session will focus on these questions: What are cultural probes and how they differ from other methods? What areas and topics of research can be investigated by using cultural probes? Can you trace some of the ways in which the application of this method has changed in the last 10 years, by comparing the 2007 and the 2017 paper?


Week 8: "TBC - Human Factors Perspectives on Inclusive design"

Facilitator: TBC - Dr Pat Langdon  (

Texts: TBC

Notes: TBC