Analysis is a serious thing. Analysis informs the decisions and actions of business, politics, science and design. Yet analysis usually remains hidden behind the output of “facts”. Unfortunately, this also means that “facts” can sound compelling but be formulated on weak analytical grounds, often beginning with unsubstantiated claims or false assumptions. This is a problem for all of us, and one especially relevant to the age of digital media.
Good analysis is important. Good analysis begins by acknowledging the scope and limitations of a study.

Certain objects, those outside of the scope of study, can remain unclear, can be entirely uncertain, or may suggest finding that can only be called “speculative”. This is the defining mark of science, and should also become a defining aspect of design, politics and business. First, define the object of study as clearly as possible. This responsibility then requires that you state your position, clarify the scope and limitations of your focus, and then provide evidence or argument to support your position. An opinion and a position are not the same thing. A position requires a calculated analysis and reasonable argument. Unfortunately, popular culture tends to hold any whim or idea as “fact” when there appears to be a majority behind it.

Science is coordinated human inquiry, and has a certain order of operations intended to give focus to the object of study. First, WHY? is a form of metaphysical inquiry. We might ask: Why is life so pervasive on this planet? Why is “h” such a typical shape for a chair? Why are pigeons such a dominant species in cities? The ‘why’ provides a broad level of inquiry to capture those critical objects that may need your attention. In the case of the pigeon, we could suppose that study areas could include: suitable habitat, bio-morphology, predator-prey relationships, source-sink relationships, supporting companion species, evolutionary relationships…so on.

This preliminary list-inquiry allows us to prioritise and focus our study by identifying the problem we intend to pursue. So, if by observation or a review of literature you determine that pigeons do seem to be a dominant species in cities, you next want to ask HOW? The ‘how’ is a form of rational inquiry. We might ask:
How are pigeons uniquely suited to urban spaces? How are pigeons adapted biologically or morphologically to cities? How do pigeon predator-prey relationships work in the city? How would we describe the critical
aspects of a pigeon ecosystem?…so on.

These types of questions will lead us to a more focused investigation. For example, we discover from our initial research that the natural habitat of the pigeon is a talus slope geology. From here, we can engage a more specific inquiry. WHAT? is a form of substantive inquiry. We might ask: What are the similarities between talus geology and urban form? What species co-inhabit these environments? What benefits do pigeons derive from urban environments over talus environments?

Now you are ready to form a testable hypothesis. This line of inquiry – from metaphysical, to rational, to substantive – should give you enough information to create a clear enough question to answer through research, experiment, or design. We might pursue the following hypothesis:

Hypothesis: Pigeons inhabit urban environments due to the similarities to their natural talus slope habitat, yet prefer and have proliferated in urban spaces because of the quantity of food available due to human coinhabitation.
Test: Are there more pigeons in areas where there is greater human density and evident food availability?

Now your research becomes meaningful to design. Let’s say a designer wishes to move pigeons away from local restaurants, where they are considered a pest, but does not agree that poison, physical deterrents, or
regular animal control methods will be useful or desirable. The designer might formulate the question: Can I design a space that is attractive to pigeons, by providing a preferred food and habitat environment, sufficient to ensure pigeons migrate away from local restaurants?

Here we are again full-circle, for this design question suggests a further inquiry into why the object is the best option? How the object will perform its intended task and how other tasks might be added without compromising the goal? What the final object looks like and what the likely consequences will be?

Use the example laid out above in the ‘order of operations’ to establish a complete view of the object of your study. As you write things out in this way, you will see a pattern emerge in the form of a clear analytical
framework or research method.
1 : Metaphysical WHY?
(1) Create an “inquiry-list” of critical questions that will lead your research. Remember that some questions will fall away, others will come to the forefront of your investigation, so don’t try to get it right first time. Just think hard and write it down.
(2) Create a sub-list of the types of literature that you think could shape your study.
(3) Search the journal database using this list. (Hint: Seek out meta-studies)
2 : Rational HOW?
(1) Create a list of interesting things you have learned in your first round of journal studies.
(2) Create a sub-list of critical questions you have about these things, like how does that work, exactly?
(3) Search the journal database using these questions
3 : Subtantive WHAT?
(1) Create another list of the things you have learned from your second round of journal studies.
(2) Create a sub-list of very directed questions, (what do we know about this? what else does that?)
(3) Search the journal database using these questions
4 : Hypothesis toward Design
(1) Create a hypothesis.
(2) Explain how you might test it.
(3) Turn this into a design question

At the end of term 1 you will compile and present an ANALYTICAL STUDY worth 25% of your total mark. You will submit this project as an on-line SWAY presentation and digital PDF.
At the end of term 2 you will have moved this analytical study into its final form, a CONCEPT DESIGN PROPOSAL worth 30% of your total mark. You will submit the final project as an updated on-line SWAY presentation and digital PDF.