Course Title: Urban research design
Dates: 04/09/2006-08/09/2006
Professor: Wim Ostendorf (Amsterdam University, Netherlands)

Course Summary:
The course is meant to familiarise students with the problems of designing social research. The focus is on learning by doing; starting with reading about research designs, then analysing the research designs of others and finally presenting an own research design. So, during the course the students will have to develop an own research design that can serve as a guide for the master thesis. The design will have to contain a clear problem definition and research question(s) and a rather detailed research plan (for examples see Blaikie chapter 8). The course is structured in line with the choices that are inherent to the development of a research design.


The objectives of the course are providing the student with
A sound understanding of the various ways of doing research;
b) The ability to delineate a relevant research theme and to translate it into a clear problem definition and research question(s), such reflecting the character of Urban Research;
c) The ability to design a research layout suited for answering the research question(s), whilst taking into account available time and means.


For each presentation 30 minutes will be available. The presentations should take no more than 10 or 15 minutes; the rest of the time is reserved for explanation, critique and discussion. The presentations will have to be informative enough in itself to enable the audience to make critical comments.


All students are expected to participate actively in the sessions, i.e. to be present, to be well prepared (to read the literature, to deliver the relevant written texts in time, to give a well developed presentation on the research design of the master thesis, etc.) and to participate actively in the discussions.

Title of Lecture
Abstract & Readings


Introduction to urban research design


In this first session, we will discuss some basic principles of social research in general, and urban research in particular. The first chapter of the book ‘Designing social research’ by Blaikie will be the basis for this discussion. Also, the further content of the course and what is expected from the students will be explained.


Norman Blaikie (2000), Designing Social Research. The Logic of Anticipation. Cambridge: Polity Press. Introduction and Chapter 1: p 1-34.



Analysis of research design


After discussing chapter 8 of Blaikie’s book on social research design, we will study a first example of how social scientists put research design principles into practice. Students are asked to write a text of about 2 pages A4 in which they summarise the research design chosen by the authors (in this case for the article of Holden and Norland). Which choices did the researchers make, why did they make them, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of these choices in their research design?


Norman Blaikie (2000), Designing Social Research. The Logic of Anticipation. Cambridge: Polity Press. Chapter 8: p 277-305

Erling Holden and Ingrid Norland (2005), Three Challenges for the Compact City as a Sustainable Urban Form: Household Consumption of Energy and Transport in Eight Residential Areas in the Greater Oslo Region. Urban Studies, vol. 42, 12, pp. 2145-2166.



Analysis and presentation of research design (1)


In this session as well as the next two sessions, we will study more examples of research design by social scientists. Like in session 2, the students are asked for each studied article to hand in a text of about 2 pages A4 in which they summarise the research design chosen by the authors.

The students will also present their own first draft of the planned research design for their master thesis. Depending on group size, these presentations will be either individually or in small groups. The comments on the presentations can be used to improve the research design. The revised version of the research design should be sent by e-mail to the professor after the course.


Kathe Newman and Ekvin K. Wyly (2006), The Right to Stay Put, Revisited: Gentrification and Resistance to Displacement in New York City. Urban Studies, vol. 43, 1, pp. 23-55.



Analysis and presentation of research design (2)


Paul Watt (2003), Urban Marginality and Labour Market Restructuring: Local Authority Tenants and Employment in an Inner London Borough. Urban Studies, vol. 40, 9, pp. 1769-1789.



Analysis and presentation of research design (3)


Olaf Schnur (2005), Exploring Social Capital as an Urban Neighbourhood Resource: Empirical Findings and Strategy Conclusions of a Case Study in Berlin-Moabit. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, vol. 96, 5, pp. 488-505.



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