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 Year2015/6

Outline Description of Module

The module is organised in two parts.  Part A is taught across several masters' programmes within the School, and provides a generic introduction to and an overview of social science research methods. Part B provides skills and context in subject specific epistemological paradigms, methodologies and methods. 

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 particular methods, techniques and perspectives. 

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 piece of structured coursework as the first step in their dissertation. 

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 in the field of spatial planning and international development.

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 research designs and methods. 

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’ of the module will be delivered by lectures, workshops and computer lab practical sessions. Training for completing the structured coursework will be given with an opportunity to discuss specific problems related to different dissertation topics.

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. 

Part (B) students will develop and practice skills in GIS Mapping, data classification and handling; geo-visualisation; spatial analysis and processing; and land use and site selection.

In addition students will improve 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.

In addition the module provides an excellent opportunity to practise and master a number of transferable employability skills such as self-discipline, organisation and critical reflection but also research design and implementation. 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

GIS Report 25%
Written Assigment 75%

The potential for reassessment in this module

A student failing the module will typically re-sit one or both assignments over the summer re-sit period. For Assignment 2, the student will be required to answer the same set of questions, as these are fundamental for the work he/she will carry out for his/her dissertation.


Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 25
Gis Report
N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 75
Written Assignment
N/A 1 N/A

Syllabus content

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.

Essential Reading and Resource List

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.) (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.



Background Reading and Resource List

Not applicable

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