CPT869 - Researching Spatial Planning and International Development

SchoolCardiff School of Planning and Geography
Department CodeCPLAN0
Module CodeCPT869
External Subject CodeK400
Number of Credits20
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Dr Georgina Santos
SemesterSpring Semester
Academic Year2013/4

Outline Description of Module

The module is organised into two parts. Part A provides a generic introduction to and an overview of social science research methods for planning. In addition, Part A of the module will provide the opportunity for students across all courses to attend “Master-classes” from experts across the School of Planning and Geography in specific methods, techniques and perspectives. 

Part B provides skills and contexts in subject-specific epistemological paradigms, methodologies and methods. It is specific to the MSc International Planning and Development, preparing students for research in spatial planning and international development and related professional practice. 

Together, Parts A and B of the module give students a robust post-graduate level understanding of the tasks involved in undertaking pure and applied research for spatial planning and international development problems. 

On completion of the module a student should be able to

Part A - Generic                 

  1. critically assess alternative approaches to social research and to recognise their strengths and weaknesses;
  2. examine the empirical content and relations of ideas introduced in other modules;
  3. identify suitable methodological approaches for a given research question;
  4. understand the epistemological principles (theories of knowledge) that govern the activities of social research;
  5. critically examine different strategies of data presentation and analysis;
  6. develop a dissertation project and conceptualise and plan the research process and its component steps:
  7. 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) appreciate and present the spatial implications of various planning and public policy initiatives.


How the module will be delivered

Part A:will be delivered by lectures supported by ‘masterclass’ workshops on particular designs and methods.Additionally, Students will be required to attend four from a choice of research methods masterclasses delivered by experts from the field. For illustrative purposes in the past these have included the following: 

Part ‘B’ will be delivered by a combination of lectures, seminars, dissertation mentor (not supervisor) sessions and laboratory exercises. It is a hands-on module.In particular, this will include four sessions on the use of GIS Mapping, to include: data classification and handling; mapping and geo-visualisation; spatial analysis and processing; and land use and site selection, to include a mixture of lectures and laboratory sessions 

Skills that will be practised and developed

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 skills they already have, and: (i) be able to discuss their topic of research with their dissertation supervisor; and (ii) present in a clear manner (both orally and in writing) the reasons behind their choices (of research topic, key readings, methods, sources of information). The module provides an excellent opportunity to practise and master a number of skills related to research design and implementation, but also in respect to self-discipline, organisation and critical reflection. Many of these are neglectedin the noise and quick speed of lectures, classes and seminars and this module will provide students with the opportunity to think carefully about their research project. Students will be expected to:

  1. Reflect on the alternative approaches to their research, choose one approach and give a clear and concise justification for this choice in writing
  2. Be able to select a topic of research, which is focused, interesting and worthy of study
  3. Read the latest research in the topic they have chosen and be able to grasp the main points

How the module will be assessed

Assignment 1 GIS Exercise (25%)

Assignment 2 Research Proposal (75%)

Students are permitted to be reassessed (usually once) in a module which they have failed, in line with course regulations. The reassessment will usually take place during the summer 



Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 25
Assignment 1 Gis Exercise
N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 75
Assignment 2 - Research Proposal
N/A 1 N/A

Syllabus content

Part A of themodule 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 focuses on developing a research proposal including topic selection, creating of research questions, evaluating alternative research methods and literature review.  

Essential Reading and Resource List

The readings will vary with the topic chosen by the student but some books which students may find helpful include:

Research Methods

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.) 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. 

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