Theory of Science and Research Methodology for Planning and Design

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Course Content

The professional planner or architect works in an environment saturated with often conflicting claims to legitimate knowledge. On a daily basis she must make continuous judgments as to what knowledge is more relevant, trustworthy and applicable in relation to specific problems and situations which more often than not are of an entangled and “wicked” nature involving many difficult-to-predict factors and events.

The primary purpose of this course is to give the prospective planner or architect the necessary understanding and analytical tools to be able to make informed judgments about the quality and relevance of knowledge claims, and to gain an understanding of how knowledge – and specifically ‘scientific’ knowledge – is produced, verified and translated into professional practice in contemporary societies, especially within the academic disciplines closely related to the broader practice fields of planning and architecture.

A second important aim of the course is to also function as a primer in general academic research methodology and practice, including practical tasks covering issues such as how to conduct a proper literature overview, write a research question, structuring a scientific argument, etc. – as a practical preparation for the final Masters’ Thesis project. The course thus provides the basic practical skills necessary to use theories to develop ideas, to choose suitable research methods to answer operative research questions and how to evaluate and present results, in both an academic and a professional context.

Further, the course provides an overview of leading contemporary research methods in the fields of planning and architectural research, and discusses the benefits and potential risks with employing specific methods. It particularly focuses on commonly employed methods in the research fields of spatial planning, environmental studies, geography, architecture and urban design.

The course is based around three main themes:

1. Theory of science: how is certified knowledge made?

  • Traditions in scientific thinking and modes of reasoning, introduction to history and traditions of natural sciences, social sciences, humanities, and arts and their role in the academic and practical field of planning and architecture research

2. Research methodology: practices for producing knowledge

  • Contemporary research methodologies, their relevance and applicability
  • Ways of structuring a research question and translating the theoretical question to an operational level
  • Techniques for gathering and analysing data and source material
  • Methods in research practice; including how the implementation of different methodological traditions vary within different research traditions
  • Translation of research methods into analytic methods within planning and design practice
  • Research ethics

3. Scientific writing: the structure and content of scientific argumentation

  • Traditions and formats of scientific writing
  • Textual structure and argumentation techniques in scientific writing
  • Literaturesearch and literaturereviews
  • Referencing and citation
  • Scrutinizingscientific text: criticalperspectives
  • The craft of writing scientific text, writing as a form of research

Learning outcomes

After this course you will be able to demonstrate your understanding of the research process by:

  • Formulating and presenting a research project proposal
  • Designing a small-scale research project
  • Choosing suitable methods to answer research questions
  • Display responsiveness to constructive collegiate critique
  • Writing literature reviews and scientific texts
  • Critically reflect on relevant use of theories and methods, and to discuss development of new knowledge

After completing the course, you should also have sufficient knowledge of research theory, tradition and method to:

  • Be able to critically question and analyse the often only implicit foundations of knowledge claims
  • Identify what research traditions and methods different works or knowledge claims are based on
  • Compare and critically discuss the strengths and weaknesses of different traditions and methods, and how different methods are employed within different traditions
  • Reflect and argue on how different knowledge traditions play into roles, arguments and approaches within practice

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