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Design thinking for transdisciplinary research

Design thinking for transdisciplinary research

Enabling silo busters to make a difference through working together with other PhD candidates across subject areas.


Design thinking for transdisciplinary research is an elective course which can be included as part of the candidate’s PhD programme. It responds to the recent rise to prominence of design thinking and methodology as a transdisciplinary means to address organisational and societal change. The course explores how this versatile toolbox can be harnessed to address complex societal challenges such as climate change, demographic shifts, natural resource management, and social welfare. The course is based on and seeks to impart and operationalise advanced knowledge in the field of design thinking as a transdisciplinary process and mindset for defining complex problems and solutions. This is an important understanding that can help candidates situate their doctoral project theme within wider trends during societal transitions.

Study format
Application period
16 November – 14 December 2023
Study period
22 January – 26 January 2024
Hosting university
University of Stavanger
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Learning outcomes


After completing this course, the candidate should: - be able to assess the appropriateness and application of design thinking in support of transdisciplinary research and professional development projects, with point of departure in their own PhD project and disciplinary concepts - be able to contribute to the development of new knowledge, new theories, methods, interpretations, and forms of documentation within the subject area and beyond - be able to engage with and critique texts on design thinking based on interdisciplinary collaboration across the social sciences, displaying methodological advance during the course



After completing this course, the candidate should: - be able to formulate issues for, plan and carry out research and professional development work through social interaction across the social sciences in relation to their own discipline - be able to analyse complex professional issues and challenge established assumptions, knowledge, and practice in the subject area by drawing on design methods and techniques - be able to creatively utilise and synthesise design methods in a research and practice setting with individual reflection and collective collaborative exercises based on task specifications


General competence

After completing this course, the candidate should: - be able to contribute to complex transdisciplinary work tasks and projects together with others with a grounding in basic design thinking methods adapted to their field of interest - be able to assess the need for, take the initiative towards, and drive innovation in a holistic manner based on articulate justification of an approach matched to a defined need - be able to define and co-create research problems and solutions in a transdisciplinary setting, combining analytical skills with concrete application


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More information

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Group work and indivdual essays 

Form of assessment                Weight         Marks

Group work                               1/2                  Passed / Not Passed

Indivdual essays                        1/2                  Passed / Not Passed

Mock grant application text and 5-minute bid pitch as well as submission of group review of a chosen set of mandatory and recommended course texts (50%; group work);

and individual reflective essays of 1,500 words each both pre- and post-course set to different templates (50%).

Both elements will be marked as Pass/Fail.

Coursework requirements

Corresponding to the methods of work above, each candidate will allocate the following time towards these mandatory course activities and deliverables for credits:

  • 37 hours - pre-course time allocation for mandatory readings (1,095 pages)
  • 20 hours - pre-course preparation of 1,500 word description of own PhD project using a template adapted to the double diamong and design thinking
  • 37 hours - participation in week-long course (5 full working days)
  • 25 hours - group work to write a 3,000 word joint review essay engaging with 6-8 of the mandatory and recommended course texts due two weeks after the course
  • 25 hours - post-course submission of a critically reflective 1,500 word essay on the concept of design thinking based on the course literature in relation to own PhD project, due one month after course conclusion to earn the credits.

Questions about the content: 

Professor Rune Todnem By :

Hosting university

University of Stavanger

University of Stavanger