UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Visual Studies for Architecture & Academic Research: Approaches & Methods (UPCH)

Find out more about the Visual Studies for Architecture & Academic Research: Approaches & Methods subject on the UPC, including what you study, teaching methods, assessment and recommended reading.

Key information 

Subject Title: Visual Studies for Architecture & Academic Research: Approaches & Methods (VSAARAM)

Subject leader: Helen McTernan

UPC pathway: UCL Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate for Humanities (UPCH) with Architecture - compulsory

Number of students on subject this year: 6

Subject description

The Visual Studies for Architecture & Academic Research: Approaches & Methods subject has two components.

The first is an undergraduate-level Visual Studies section held at the UCL Bartlett School of Architecture. You’ll learn how to research projects, create portfolios and discover visual design methods.

The second component is the Academic Research section. This subject will help you develop your academic skills for further study.

1. Visual Studies for Architecture

You’ll study this part of the subject at the Bartlett School of Architecture. The architecture foundation subject will introduce you to a range of tools, techniques and media. You’ll draw inspiration from a range of disciplines, including architecture engineering, art, sculpture, languages, film, archaeology and music.  

The foundation subject explores ways of looking, making and communicating, and the project work you make will be included in your portfolio. It’s an excellent way to experience first-hand what it means to study Architecture at UCL.

2. Academic Research: Approaches and Methods

This part of the subject will teach you about academic practices and conventions. You’ll use these to explore topics and write your own essays and projects, which will improve your academic research skills.

How we teach Visual Studies for Architecture & Academic Research: Approaches & Methods

Visual Studies for Architecture (VSA) – The Bartlett  

You'll study an undergraduate-level subject at the Bartlett, including weekly tutorials and visual project work with tutors.

In Term One, you'll explore and communicate your ideas in weekly sessions. You'll include visual work you produce in your portfolios when applying to UCL’s Architecture BSc.

Early in Term Two, Bartlett tutors will assist you to develop and refine your portfolio. This will support your undergraduate degree application to UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture and other UK Architecture schools. Our tutors will help you to prepare well in advance of interviews/portfolio submissions. 

Academic Research: Approaches and Methods - ARAM

We teach the Research Methods part of the subject through weekly 90-minute academic research skills and methods classes throughout the year. Teaching takes place online via Microsoft Teams.

Classes are small, with a maximum of 14 students. These classes will help you gain the practical skills you need to undertake an extended research project.

You will have to write either one or two research projects, depending on your subject combination.

The skills you will learn in these classes will support you throughout the research project process. You’ll learn how to select relevant information from reliable sources. You’ll apply these research skills to your assessments throughout the year.

We teach the Research Methods classes to a mix of UPCH students. You’ll have the opportunity to work with students from other subjects, exposing you to writing conventions across disciplines.

You’ll have to complete pre-class tasks to prepare for the Research Methods classes. We’ll also set post-class tasks to help review and consolidate your learning. You can expect to spend 1-2 hours each week on these tasks.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the Research Methods part of the subject, you should be able to:

  • reference, apply and critique academic sources in your academic work
  • identify and avoid plagiarism in your academic work
  • conduct research using library databases
  • analyse undergraduate-level academic materials
  • evaluate sources and data for reliability and relevance
  • develop a title, thesis and focused outline for academic work
  • work to deadlines and improve your time management with your personal tutor’s support
  • develop and present a convincing argument
  • select and use information from key sources related to your research aim and identify the various arguments, theories and approaches
  • reflect on your research
  • an oral presentation of your research topic.

By the end of the Visual Studies for Architecture (VSA) part of the subject, you’ll be familiar with:

  • casting
  • drawing a section through an object/building/city
  • sketching and diagram techniques
  • a range of model making techniques
  • crafting and fabricating components in the Bartlett workshop
  • photography
  • portfolio and visual presentation
  • visualisation software (Photoshop)
  • Digital folio skills, Indesign and Powerpoint/Keynote etc.

Overview of Summative Assessment

VSA Assessments

OneAssessed Visual Project Work45%
  45% Total

ARAM Assessments


Plagiarism and Referencing Test


Evaluation of Source Assessment


Research Project Draft

ThreeResearch Project Portfolio (including Reflective Component)5%
  55% Total

Assessment weighting is for the current academic year. This may change for 2022/23 entry.

Recommended reading

You don’t have to do any reading before the subject begins. You’ll have various orientation sessions to help introduce you to useful resources at the start of the course. These include resources provided by the UCL library, as well as material developed by the Research Methods tutors.