Architecture paper writing

Architecture paper: how to succeed with your writing

Feb 06, 2013
Successful writing in architecture is no more than a little bit of planning, research and effort. The discipline itself is very captivating and an easy one to write about (aside from some technical concerns) if give the time to properly evaluate good sources. There are many compelling architectural topics to delve into; from city-planning and renaissance architecture to modern theories and architecture.
So the question is- where do you begin? Like with any subject, the first step is to identify a suitable topic to sink your teeth into.

Topic wisdom

Many research papers come from either an academic angle (connection to theoretical research) or a practical one (connection to empirical studies). With architectural writing, you probably will enjoy the practical or hands-on approach to research; as many aspiring architects are intrigued by the mechanics of design, how to improve cities and etc. This type of writing will supply you with several broad categories for topic selection, such as;
  1. The unique design features of your favorite structure
  2. What makes some designs fail and others succeed
  3. How to design for specific geographic locations
  4. Improving cities or rural areas
  5. Often repeated approaches and techniques
From these examples you can easily work your way into a more defined topic by exploring different avenues of each. For instance, if you were to go with a particular structure that you adore or one that you were always interested in, you would first (1) research the development of the structure along with (2) specific information regarding the architect(s) involved, (3) the materials used, as well as (4) design tactics and methodologies put in place. To extend your paper even further, you may even decide to add a more detailed analysis of other issues such as historical implications as well as underlying design concepts and ideologies.

Theoretical Perspectives

In addition to the practical approach, you may also decide to look at or incorporate some simple theoretical perspectives in your writing. This will allow you to show connections to various ideas, along with looking into the underlying concepts and ideologies previously mentioned. Some possible questions to pose for theoretical papers would be;
What influenced the architect's design decisions?
What can be said about these methods; how can they be analyzed further?
What else has been done throughout time and how does it relate to this design in particular?
What type of architectural process was undertaken with the building of this structure?
Is there an abstract or figurative meaning associated with any of these designs?

Refine and Define

After securing a broad topic you can move on to an even more crucial step which is-refining it. As mentioned previously exploring different issues and components of a topic are a great means of narrowing it down. Though if unfamiliar with a particular topic or subject matter you'll need to seek out preliminary or basic information regarding it to give you a better idea of where to start. This can be done quickly and easily. For instance you can...
  1. Utilize textbook chapters or glossaries that discuss the topic
  2. Use subject-specific encyclopedias or reference books on Architecture, such as The World Atlas of Architecture
  3. Use the internet to read the biographical information of a particular architect or the history of a structure
Preliminary research is a key step to properly planning and executing any paper. Instead of guessing or assuming subcategories and components of a topic, you should secure any previous knowledge with basic research. This will hopefully be very beneficial in the long run as it will allow you to get a picture of the depths and inner-workings of your topic; which areas to research and which areas to leave alone (if possible).

Plan and Succeed

The next important step is to plan a research strategy. Now that you know exactly what you intend to write about you can start to devise a plan to gather all of the resources you need to get started. Unlike the preliminary research you'll need more precise and detailed information on your topic to sufficiently develop an argument and craft your architecture paper. There are two main steps to planning a research strategy:

Identifying key words to search

Before you begin your search online or in the library you may want to develop a keyword list to use your search to the best degree possible. You may have to identify synonyms of some words or change the order of others to be able to locate a range of suitable listings.
For instance, a search under old places of worship Spain may include a great amount of results; some helpful and some not. But a search for places of worship Cordoba Spain for instance would show more specific results, like for the mosque or cathedral of Cordoba for instance.

Listing possible sources

This step basically involves writing down the best possible places to go to find what you need. Your list may include electronic databases such as Ebscohost, Academic Search Premier or Artstor for images. Also it may include select and specific books and reliable online sources such as

Research, Read, Write!

When searching for suitable sources, be mindful of limiting yourself to select authors, and ways of thinking, as well as gathering too much information on a topic. A good approach is to simply take on a small but diverse amount of information covering all the major areas in need of being addressed in your paper (a basic outline may be very useful here as well).
As you read through each source remember to be diligent in your note taking skills. Skilled notes are those that are clear and thoughtful, and will often times lead to a more sophisticated discussion or analysis of an issue. In some cases initially frivolous notes may turn out to be beneficial ones, but for the most part, if you want to preserve time you should put an adequate amount of thought into your note taking, and avoid obvious or silly notes. Additionally, source cards should be used to keep track of all referenced sources in order to avoid plagiarism and properly record in-text citations and work-cited listings.

Final tips

Lastly, a few things to remember when crafting your architectural argument, are that architecture papers generally argue three main issues; those concerning space and physical aspects, those concerning historical implications, and those concerning theoretical concepts and theories. Likewise, topics should be realistic and researchable; not just based upon assumptions and guesswork. And finally, something else to keep in mind is that many of the intentions behind architecture and design research papers are either to improve towns and cities (whether directly or indirectly) or to learn from previous achievements in order to design better structures overall.
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