The purpose of this course was to equip students with skills to conceptualize, write and critique empirical research. Such research is a staple of professional journals, such as the Journal of the American Planning Association and the Journal of Planning Education and Research. This course accomplished this objective by introducing students to the dominant paradigms that shape empirical social science research, asking students to critique scholarly research, propose alternatives and to produce a draft of an empirical journal article.
The course used examples of research debates from urban planning to illustrate different research strategies. Typically, the readings included examples of observed studies accompanied by readings explaining in greater detail the particular research strategy used in the examples. Students also had the opportunity to propose alternative strategies for addressing the research questions examined in the examples. Through practice, students honed their research design skills. In the final part of the course, students presented and critiqued each other’s research designs.