Course Title: Quantitative and Qualitative Methodological approaches to Urban Studies
Dates: 04/09/2006-08/09/2006
Professor: Giampaolo Nuvolati, Matteo Colleoni, Marianna D’Ovidio (University of Milan Bicocca, Italy), Daniele Cologna (University of Pavia, Italy)

Course Summary
: The course aims at introducing the students with the basics of quantiative and qualitative data analysis, with a specific focus on urban related issues. From an introductory lecture on the issue of data quality, the course moves to social indicators, cartographic representation and qualitative methods to investigate Urban-relevant phenomena. Specific training sessions are foreseen for the afternoons.

The course aims to give the students:
An introduction to the ecological analysis;
b) The capability to use and to evaluate in the appropriate way statistical sources and data for social analysis;
c) A wide understanding of indicators and the capacity to work with them;
d) An overview about the definition of the territorial units of analysis;
e) An overview of the available world wide data-bases;
f ) A knowledge of spatial analysis and the capacity to use a software for mapping;
g) The ability to use qualitative methods of social research and to design a research project with qualitative methods.




Title of Lecture

Abstract & Readings



Giampaolo Nuvolati

(University of Milan Bicocca, Italy)

Ecological Analisys

Quality of Data

  • Introduction to the ecological analysis
  • Ecological fallacy
  • The increasing number of sources producing aggregated data
  • The need of information on the information: availability of data for different topics (from a deductive toward an inductive approach)
  • A critical approach: the quality of the data
  • Toward the definition of Metropolitan Areas
  • Basic Statistics (monovariate analysis)

In the afternoon

Analysis of data-bases: a) European Commission, Urban Audit; b) Center for Urban Policy Research, State of the Nation’s Cities; c) Population Crisis Committee, Cities, Life in the 100 Largest Metropolitan Areas.


Rossi R.J., Gilmartin K.J., The Handbook of Social Indicators: Sources, Characteristics, and Analysis, New York, Garland Press, 1980.

Nuvolati G, “Quality of Life in the Old European Cities Belt”, EURODATA Newsletter, 1997: Issue 5, p. 20-22




Giampaolo Nuvolati

(University of Milan Bicocca, Italy)


From data to social indicators


  • The Movement of the social indicators in the USA in the ’60-‘70
  • Types of indicators: describing and planning (example for elderly services)
  • Quality of Indicators: Validity (presenting different examples)

In the afternoon


Generate a 2x2 table by validity and reliability including a set of indicators for different topics.

Cobb C. W. and Rixford C., Lessons learned from the history of social indicators, November 1998 (on the web)

Carmines E. e Zeller R., Reliability and validity assesment, Beverly Hills, Calif. : Sage Publications, 1979.



Matteo Colleoni (University of Milan Bicocca, Italy)

Survey Research Method


  • Introduction to survey research method
  • Primary and secondary research
  • Research process steps: research planning and designing
  • Data collection by means of questioning
  • Types of questions: questionnaire design
  • Combining items into scales
  • Data types
  • Main survey research data collection techniques: questionnaire, interview and time budget
  • Basic statistics: bivariate analysis

Corbetta P., Social Research: Theory, methods and techniques (London: Sage, 2003);
Floyed F.J. Jr., Survey Research Methods (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 2002);
Maxim P. S., Quantitative research methods in the social sciences (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).



Marianna D’Ovidio (University of Milan Bicocca, Italy)

A cartographic perspective into comparative Urban studies

Spatial analysis and representation is an effective tool in comparative studies and the advancement of Geographic Information Systems made mapping of spread use. The lecture, aims at providing the basic knowledge on GIS for comparative studies. It will start with an overview of the history of GIS, from the seminal studies of Booths, to newest applications with GIS. Map foundations will be given: georefereing, projecting and representing. The main elements of the geographical database will be explained and the architecture of the GIS will be explored. Examples of maps will be largely used and a number of case studies will be discussed. Afternoon exercises will provide students with basics of GIS.

Goodchild, M.F., L. Anselin, R. Appelbaum, B. Herr Harthorn “Toward spatially integrated social sciente” in INTERNATIONAL REGIONAL SCIENCE REVIEW 23, 2: 139–159 (April 2000)

Monmonier, M. (1996) How to lie with maps. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Chapters 2 (Elements of the map) and 7 (Maps for political propaganda).



Daniele Cologna (University of Pavia, Italy)

Introduction into qualitative analysis

Fundamentals of Qualitative Research:
Qualitative Research Design;

  • Adopting a Coherent Explorative Approach;
  • The Importance of Thick Description;
  • Participant Observation;
  • In-depth Interviews;
  • Case studies;
  • Focus groups;
  • Processing Qualitative Data (the Grounded Theory Approach)
  • Introducing Qualitative Data Processing Software (ATLAS.TI)
  • Problems and Challenges of Applied Qualitative Research (General Overview and Examples)

Denzin N.K., Lincoln Y.S. (Eds.), Handbook of Qualitative Research: cap. 17, 20, 25 and 27 / 3rd Edition (2005).
Kvale S., Inter Views: An Introduction to Qualitative Research Interviewing (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1996);
Strauss A., Corbin J., Basics of Qualitative Research. Techniques and Procedures for Developing Grounded Theory (Thousand Oaks: Sage, 1998); cap. 1 and 12.




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