CPT887: Researching Eco-Cities

School Cardiff School of Geography and Planning
Department Code GEOPL
Module Code CPT887
External Subject Code K490
Number of Credits 20
Level L7
Language of Delivery English
Module Leader Dr Li Yu
Semester Spring Semester
Academic Year 2017/8

How the module will be assessed


70% contribution

Dissertation proposal

2,800 words


GIS report

30% contribution

GIS Project Report

1,200 words


The potential for reassessment in this module

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.

How the module will be delivered

Part A: will be delivered by lectures.

Part B: will be delivered by a mixture of lectures, seminar discussions (including use of previously circulated reading material), and lab based work on methods to interpret inputs and outputs to eco-city living (e.g.  GIS). This will be supported with hand outs which will be made available on learning central (the university virtual learning environment).

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.  Part B provides skills and contexts in subject-specific epistemological paradigms, methodologies and methods.

For Part B of the Module, students will gain skills that are particularly relevant to understanding and evaluating eco-city development.

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 into the analysis of eco and low carbon cities.

On completion of the module a student should be able to

On completion of the module a student will be able to:

Part A – in respect to research in general:

  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 your dissertation.

Part B – in relation to eco-city studies:

  1. Critically assess research approaches and methodologies in relevant debates.
  2. Examine the purposes of contrasting approaches to knowledge production, such as that between ‘objective’ and constructed approaches to the idea of an eco-city.
  3. Reflect on the role of social and institutional contexts for the research process.
  4. Identify and evaluate different sources of evidence

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 gain skills that are relevant to the analysis of eco-city developments including (i) appraisal systems for eco-city master plans, (ii) software to analyse inputs and outputs to large scale developments, and (iii) analysis of data sets operating at a variety of spatial scales.

Assessment Breakdown

Type % Title Duration(hrs) Period Week
Written Assessment 70 Research Proposal N/A 1 N/A
Written Assessment 30 Gis Report N/A 1 N/A

Essential Reading and Resource List

Part A:

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

Franklin, A. and Blyton, P. (eds.) (2011) 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.


Part B:

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


Baban S M J & Parry, T., 2001. Developing and applying a GIS-assisted approach to locating wind farms in the UK. Renewable Energy, 24(1), 59-71.

Haywood, I. Cornelius, S. & Carver, S. 2006, An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, Prentice Hall.  

Longley, P. A. Goodchild, M. F. Maguire, D.J. &Rhind, D.W. 2001, Geographic Information Systems and Science, John Wiley & Sons.

Malczewski, J., 2004. GIS-based land-use suitability analysis: a critical overview. Progress in Planning, 62(1), 3-65.

Background Reading and Resource List

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 of the module will provide a tailored suite of sessions designed to develop the methodological expertise of those pursuing research on low carbon and eco-cities. Sessions will include: Mixed methods for eco-city analysis, helping to choose the right approach for a dissertation; Constructing and deconstructing appraisal systems; and an introduction to qualitative and quantitative analysis for eco-cities including using appropriate software applications.

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