CPT879 - Researching Sustainability

SchoolCardiff School of Planning and Geography
Department CodeCPLAN0
Module CodeCPT879
External Subject CodeX210
Number of Credits20
LevelL7
Language of DeliveryEnglish
Module Leader Dr Andrea Collins
SemesterSpring Semester
Academic Year2013/4

Outline Description of Module

The module is organised in 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 context in subject-specific epistemological paradigms, methodologies and methods.  Here, students will acquire skills that are particularly relevant to the sustainability field, i.e., on (i) how and whether to make sustainability ‘measurable’; (ii) the basic methodology for Ecological Footprinting; and (iii) the scope for using Action Research methods, involving participation in community projects. The module is specifically designed to assist students in designing an effective Master-level 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 sustainability field.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

Part A:

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

8. understand the purposes and problems of contrasting approaches to knowledge production in the environmental sphere, including approaches 9. that take ‘objective’ approaches to sustainable development and those that treat it as a contested concept
10. make good decisions about whether, how and how far environmental sustainability can be made measurable
11. assess the scope for research methods that involve active engagement with communities
12. understand how, and under what conditions, environmental knowledge impacts upon decision-making

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, seminar discussions (including use of previously circulated reading) and group work exercises.

Skills that will be practised and developed

Whilst studying this module, 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.  

For Part B, students will acquire skills that are particularly relevant to the sustainability field, i.e., on (i) how and whether to make sustainability ‘measurable’; (ii) the basic methodology for Ecological Footprinting; and (iii) the scope for using Action Research methods, involving participating in community projects.

How the module will be assessed

Courswork (100%)

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 100
Coursework
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 of classes designed to explore research issues especially relevant to environmental problems and sustainability debates. Five additional two-hour sessions will be provided, as follows: 

Essential Reading and Resource List

For Part A:

Bryman, A. (2012) Social Research Methods (4e) Oxford OUP.

Franklin, A. and Blyton, P. (eds.) Researching Sustainability: a guide to social science methods, practice and engagement.  London.  Earthscan.

Hennick, M (2011) Qualitative Research Methods.  London.  Sage.

May, T. (2011) Social Research: Issues, methods and process (4e).  Maidenhead.  OUP.

Silverman, D. (2010) Doing qualitative research: a practical handbook (3e).  London.  Sage.

Singh, K. (2007) Quantitative Social Research Methods,  Thousand Oaks, Sage. 

For Part B:

Collins A, Cowell R, Flynn A (2009) “Evaluation and environmental governance: the institutionalisation of ecological footprinting” Environment and Planning A, 41 (7), pp1707-1725

Collins A & Flynn A, (2007) ‘Engaging with the Ecological Footprint as a Decision Making Tool: Process and Responses’, Local Environment, 12 (3), pp295-312

Collins A, Flynn A, Wiedmann T & J Barrett (2006) The Environmental Impacts of Consumption at a Subnational Level: The Ecological Footprint of Cardiff, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10 (3), pp1-16

Collins A, Flynn A, Munday M & Roberts A (2007) ‘Assessing the Environmental Consequences of Major Sporting Events: The 2003/04 FA’, Urban Studies, 44 (3), pp1-20

Collins A, Flynn A, Wiedmann T & J Barrett (2006) The Environmental Impacts of Consumption at a Subnational Level: The Ecological Footprint of Cardiff, Journal of Industrial Ecology, 10 (3), pp1-16

Franklin, A and Blyton, P (2011) Researching Sustainability: A Guide to Social Science Methods, Practice and Engagement Earthscan, London

Franklin, A., Newton, J., Middleton, J. and Marsden, T. (2011) 'Reconnecting skills for sustainable communities with everyday life' Environment and Planning A, 43(2) 347-362

Marsden, T, Franklin, A and Newton, J (2011) ‘Sustainability in Practice: Situated learning and knowledge for the evolving eco-economy’, Town Planning Review, 81 (5), 541-562

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