|School||Cardiff School of Geography and Planning|
|External Subject Code||K400|
|Number of Credits||20|
|Language of Delivery||English|
|Module Leader||Dr Brian Webb|
This module provides a foundation for research methods in the social sciences at post-graduate level, introducing the main approaches to research traditions and ethics; and data generation and analysis for the social sciences. The module is divided into two parts.
Part A is taught across several masters' programmes within the School, and covers generic approaches to research methods in the social sciences, and masterclasses on advanced methods.
Part B is specific to the MSc International Planning and Development, preparing students for research in spatial planning and international development and related professional practice. Part B has two elements. First, students will undertake a GIS mapping exercise to develop skills in spatial analysis. Second, in preparation for the dissertation and drawing on the lectures in Part A, students undertake a research proposal as the first step in their dissertation.
Part A - Generic (1) critically assess alternative approaches to social research and to recognise their strengths and weaknesses;
examine the empirical content and relations of ideas introduced in other modules;
identify suitable methodological approaches for a given research question;
understand the epistemological principles (theories of knowledge) that govern the activities of social research;
critically examine different strategies of data presentation and analysis;
develop a dissertation project and conceptualise and plan the research process and its component steps:
apply skills in selected methods relevant to a postgraduate dissertation.
Part B - Course Specific (1) critically assess different research approaches and methodologies relevant to international planning and development;
(2) compare different approaches to knowledge production in the area of research they have chosen for their dissertation;
(3) reflect on the role of social and institutional contexts for the research process in their area of expertise;
(4) identify and evaluate different sources of evidence in their own field of research;
(5) identify and reflect on major ethical issues relating to their own research;
(6) develop a dissertation project and conceptualise and plan the research process and its component steps;
(7) apply skills in selected methods relevant to the dissertation;
(8) through a GIS exercise, appreciate and present the spatial implications of various planning and public policy initiatives.
Part A: The generic part of the module will begin by introducing students to the epistemological bases of social science research for “planning”. This part of the module will then go on to outline the dominant research traditions in the social sciences and explain how these are intimately linked to choices made at each stage of the research process. The connections between epistemology, methodology and method are established here. The logic of enquiry for undertaking effective research is then explained along with an introduction to using quantitative methods, qualitative methods, mixed methods, case studies, secondary, documentary and archive research, visual research methods and field observation/ethnography. This part of the module concludes with discussions on data analysis and presentation.
Part B: In the course-specific part of the module students will undertake a GIS mapping exercise and will complete a piece of structured. The GIS sessions will concentrate on the use of GIS Mapping, covering: data handling; mapping and geo-visualisation; spatial analysis; and querying. Training for completing the structured coursework will be given with an opportunity to discuss specific problems related to different dissertation topics.
Masterclasses: There will be a choice of master classes in qualitative and quantitative methods, deliberative and participatory approaches to research and spatial research methods.
In Part (A) students will practise and develop a number of skills. Students will learn to identify the relative merits of contrasting epistemological and methodological perspectives on the research process. They will learn when and how to use different research methods. They will develop skills in ideas generation and in the identification of a researchable topic. Students will also develop skills in writing research proposals and undertaking literature reviews. Whilst not actually carrying out independent research in this module, students will be given the necessary skills to design and implement a piece of research on their own.
In Part (B) students will improve the skills they already have, and: (a) be able to discuss their topic of research with the lecturer, dissertation supervisor and/or fellow students; and (b) present in a clear manner (both orally and in writing) the reasons behind their choices of research topic, key readings, methods, sources of information, to name but a few.
The module provides an excellent opportunity to practice and master a number of skills related to research design and implementation, but also self-discipline, organisation and critical reflection. Students will be expected to:
Reflect on the alternative approaches to their research, choose one approach and give a clear and concise justification for this choice in writing
Be able to select a topic of research, which is focused, interesting and worthy of study
Read the latest research in the topic they have chosen and be able to grasp the main points
There will be 2 summative assessments as described below. In addition to those, there will be formative assessments throughout Part A, undertaken mainly as interactive discussions with the lecturer.
Part A of the module will begin by introducing students to the epistemological bases of social science research for “planning” (in its widest sense) and, after C Wright Mills, introduce the “planning imagination”. This part of the module will then go on to outline the dominant research traditions in the social sciences and explain how these are intimately linked to choices made at each stage of the research process. The connections between epistemology, methodology and method are established here. The logic of enquiry for undertaking effective research is then explained along with an introduction to using quantitative methods, qualitative methods, mixed methods, case studies, secondary, documentary and archive research, visual research methods and field observation/ethnography. This part of the module concludes with discussions on data analysis and presentation.
Part B offers a tailored suite ofcourse-specific classes that will support students in undertaking a GIS mapping exercise and completing coursework that will feed directly into their dissertations. The GIS sessions will concentrate on the use of GIS Mapping, covering: data classification and handling; mapping and geo-visualisation; spatial analysis and processing; and land use and site selection.
The readings will vary with the topic chosen by the student but some books which students may find helpful include:
Burns, R. 2000. Introduction to research methods. London: Sage.
Bryman, A. 2012. Social research methods. 4th edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press (or Bryman, A. 2008. Social research methods. 3rd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press).
Dawson, C. 2009. Introduction to research methods: a practical guide for anyone undertaking a research project. Oxford: How To Books.
Denscombe, M. (1998) The good research guide: for small-scale social research projects Open University Press, Buckingham.
Franklin, A. and Blyton, P. (eds.) (2011) Researching Sustainability: a guide to social science methods, practice and engagement. London. Earthscan.
Hennink, M., Hutter, I. and Bailey, A. 2011. Qualitative research methods. London: Sage.
May, T. (1993), Social research: issues, methods and processes, Buckingham: Open University Press.
May, T. (2011) Social Research: Issues, methods and process. Maidenhead: Open University Press.
Seale, C. ed. 2004. Social research methods: a reader. London, New York: Routledge.
Silverman, D. (2010) Doing qualitative research: a practical handbook. London: Sage.
Singh, K. (2007) Quantitative Social Research Methods, Thousand Oaks, Sage.
GIS and Planning
Burrough,P.A, and McDonnell, R.A. (1998) Principles of Geographical Information Systems. Oxford University Press
Longley, P., and Clarke, G. (1995) (eds) GIS for Business and Service Planning GeoInformation International
Longley, P., Goodchild,M.F, Maguire,D.J., and Rhind,D.W. (1999) (eds.) Geographical Information Systems: Principles and Applications, New York – Chichester, Whiley.
Longley, P., Goodchild,M.F, Maguire,D.J., and Rhind,D.W. (2001) Geographical Information Systems and Science. Wiley & Sons
Martin,D. (1995) Geographic Information Systems and their socioeconomic applications, London: Routledge. 2nd edition.
RTPI (1992) Geographic Information Systems (GIS) - A Planners Introductory Guide. RTPI, London.
Scholten, H.J. and Stillwell, J.C.H. (1990) Geographical Information Systems for Urban and Regional Planning (especially chapters by Ottens and le Clercq). Kluwer Academic Publishers.
Worboys, M. (1995) GIS: A Computing Perspective, London: Taylor and Francis.