9 Tips on Thesis Topic Selection (for Architect Students)

You will be writing a thesis at some point during your architectural studies.

More likely, you can expect to write several; the ubiquitous nature of paper-writing does not seem to escape the college environment, and studying architects are certainly not immune.

However, there is no need to dread the thesis nor the process of writing a well-executed paper about the field with which you are passionate, especially since you are in the fortunate position of being able to choose.

There are choices aplenty, so take this opportunity to home in on whatever architecture component intrigues you the most. Adhering to appropriate tips should make the process relatively straightforward and perhaps even fun.

What are some things to consider in a thesis topic for architecture?

how to choose an architectural thesis topic

1. Your Interest

You are interested in designing buildings – no extrasensory powers were used in formulating this hypothesis, but it is no doubt true if architecture is your intended field.

However, designing buildings is part of a vast subject, and what drew you to architecture might differ from what drew your friend. So, step back as far as you need to pinpoint the moment in time where you decided that architecture was right for you.

The task may not be easy if you felt drawn to it for as long as you can remember. But that does not mean you can’t dig into your past to determine the What and Why of your passion.

Were you inspired by the buildings in your hometown’s historic district, or do you have an interest in a more scientific approach to the hyper-efficient and smart homes of the future?

No exact answer is necessary, but reflection can certainly help you come closer to your ideal thesis.

2. Not too Wide, and Not too Narrow a Scope

Your dissertation is likely required to follow specific guidelines on length.

If the topic you choose is too narrow, you likely won’t have enough information for a substantial paper; if the topic is too broad, you will likely struggle to cover the necessary information to support your thesis fully.

For example, you may struggle to find enough information for a topic such as “18th-century Gothic Architecture in Edinburgh” while being overwhelmed with a subject like “The Complete History of Architecture.”

Find a middle ground that you can cover thoroughly within your thesis’s volume constraints while still doing the topic its due justice.

3. Sufficient Material and Literature for Your Topic of Choice

Again, too much specificity can sabotage a thesis. You may jot down some ideas, begin writing, and hit a brick wall with no way around.

To avoid the futile effort of choosing a poorly researched topic and having to re-start all over later on, thoroughly research your topic before you start writing.

Specifically, research the research. If you can find several dozen sources to support your writing, you are good to go. If you can’t, spare yourself the headache and choose a different topic.

4. Avoid Topics that are Too Common

What is too common?

Anything that comes to mind right away with little critical thought. If it was easy for you to think of, chances are it was easy for thousands of others to think of as well.

Please don’t subject your thesis to redundancy, do yourself a favor and write something that will inform people of things they did not even realize they needed to know. This approach is how you wow judges, professors, and even future employers.

Again, make sure that the research exists to back it up, but consider applying that research in a unique direction; question the status quo. You are an architecture student; you have no excuse not to think outside the box.

5. How it Supports Your Portfolio

Your thesis will be a useful tool for when you graduate and are looking for work. The topic you choose should reflect your niches and interests to set you apart from other candidates.

While you can certainly choose any topic you want (in architecture), you will be doing yourself a service later if you choose something that reflects what you plan to specialize in as an architect.

6. Choose One that Addresses a Real-World Issue

While the nature of the architectural thesis lends itself to creativity, you should still keep your subject grounded as you will be working in the real world.

Consider some possibilities for the future and extrapolate how you imagine the field of architecture evolves.

For example: designing houses to withstand sea-level rise, or designing smart homes that are self-sufficient, is a concrete type of topic to shoot for.

7. Choose a Topic that You Can Apply

If you plan to build your thesis to support your portfolio, consider choosing a topic that you anticipate basing your job around.

If you lean toward urban architecture, your thesis might illustrate some of the factors that go into large-scale projects like skyscrapers and office buildings; or green systems that make them a sustainable ecosystem on their own.

This way, you are not only informing yourself how to do your job better, but you are telling your employer that you have an extra degree of practical understanding, one which you can bring along should they hire you.

Alternatively, see if you can adopt a fresh perspective in tackling one of the top 10 problems facing the architecture industry – they are topics of great interest for most architects.

8. Consider What You Already Know

Background knowledge can provide a great deal of momentum as you dive into your thesis. It helps you focus your research on supporting your paper rather than simultaneously writing a paper as you learn the topic.

This point does not mean you should forego a topic you are particularly passionate about just because you are not sure of the details. However, if you are passionate about the thesis topic, chances are you know enough to be passionate about it.

Also, choosing a topic you already know a little bit about prevents you from getting into a paper only to discover that you chose one of the more boring components of architecture.

9. Leave Room to Learn

While background knowledge is useful, you may also want to consider the types of things you don’t know but are interested in learning more about.

Writing a thesis can be an incredibly educational experience. Chances are that even those topics you are familiar with have some unexplored corners for you to discover along the way, keeping you intrigued.

Remember, as an architecture student, you have a world of uncertainty ahead of you. Go ahead and embrace it.