NOTE: Prof. Kinder currently teaches the course. Below is my syllabus from 2015.

UP835 Research Seminar

UP835 Research Seminar
College of Architecture + Urban Planning
University Of Michigan, Winter 2015
Wednesdays 9:00 - 12:00 noon
Room 2204 Art & Arch Bldg
class listserv:

modified: Monday, May 20, 2019

course overview
ctools (online resources, authentication required)
ebrary (online books through UM Library, authentication required)

Prof. Scott D. Campbell
office:  2225C A&AB
(734) 763-2077
Office hours

Jan7 Feb4 Feb25   Mar11 Mar18 Mar25 Apr1 Apr8 Apr15 Apr27



January 7: Introduction

Course introduction: research as craft; the audiences for research proposals;

The structure of research questions



January 14: The Structure of Research Proposals


Pzreworski, Adam and Salomon, Frank, On the Art of Writing Proposals (Social Science Research Council, 1995 rev., 1988).

Calabrese, Raymond L. 2009. Dissertation Desk Reference : The Doctoral Student's Manual to Writing the Dissertation. Blue Ridge Summit, PA, USA: Rowman & Littlefield Publishing Group. [ebrary] read the following entries: Introduction (pp. ix-xi); Abstract (pp. 1-2); Problem Statement (pp. 119-20); Research Question (pp. 136-7)

also review the ebrary reading sections on research questions.


1. Review of a Dissertation: Locate a copy of a dissertation, ideally on a topic similar to your own work. (You can easily access dissertations through ProQuest Dissertations & Theses, or else find a hard copy of a dissertation). Write a brief (2-3 page) review and evaluation of the dissertation. Please upload your answer to the ctools site BEFORE the start of class: UP 835 001 W15 Resources / STUDENT UPLOADS / A. Review of a Dissertation (Jan 14). Consider such questions as:

  • How well written is the abstract?
  • What is the research question? Is the question compelling and important? Does the question fit with the overall research?
  • How well aligned are the question, the literature, the methodology and the evidence?
  • Does the author do a good job of explaining past research findings on this topic and why this project breaks new ground?
  • Are the results convincing? If you are skeptical, explain why.
  • Do you think the dissertation would make a good book and/or set of articles?

2. Editing Academic Writing : Edit and rewrite two excerpts (Soja; Brenner and Theodore) for clarity and brevity. * Make enough copies for everyone and bring to class. Be ready to read your versions and discuss your editing choices.


January 21: Defining important problems, formulating compelling questions



•Research question/problem statement (ca. 3-4 pages) [upload by Monday evening to ctools site: ]

additional tasks for class (bring your answers to class and be ready to discuss):
• read at least two dissertation proposals (see the ctools resource page for copies: UP 835 001 W15 Resources / CLASS READINGS / URP PhD Dissertation Proposals). Identify the basic outline of the proposal. How many pages are devoted to each section? What is the research question? Is it clear and compelling? What is the problem statement?

•Select at least three dissertations (of your choice). How quickly can you identify the research question? Either copy the question verbatim and/or rewrite it in your own words for clarity. (As for last week, use either a dissertation hard copy or ProQuest Dissertations & Theses. For each, find the research question.)


January 28

first half:

Guest: Dr. Louis Merlin (PhD, UNC-Chapel Hill, 2014)


second half:

Research Question and Problem Statement: discussion and critique (continued)

Review of Dissertation Proposals and Dissertation Abstracts (carried over from last week)


Chicago Guide to Academic Career - Writing a Dissertation [ctools]
also review the course resources page and online/ebrary readings: their sections on literature reviews.


Bring in your Reviews of Dissertation Proposals and Dissertation Abstracts (originally due Jan 21). Additional/new task: revisit these documents and examine the structure of their literature reviews: how do the lit reviews answer the questions: what are the major questions around this theme? What research been done before? What were their findings, and also their methodologies? How well does the proposal author use the lit review to set up their own research question and methods?


February 4: From Literature to Methods

first half:

Guest: Patrick Cooper-McCann (current PhD student). dissertation topic: "Planning Beyond the Local State: Park Provision in Detroit"

second half:

From Literature to Methods --or-- transitioning from "What have others concluded about this topic?" to "what can I add to the conversation, and how will I get there?"



Literature review (ca. 4-6 pages) -- upload to ctools by Monday evening


February 11

first hour:

Guest: Dr. Sarah Mills (URP PhD 2014) -- first half of class.
reading: "Mills proposal 10_09.docx" (in ctools)

rest of class:

Linking Questions, Literatures to your Methods.

Tasks for class:

1. Revisit the dissertation proposals and dissertations you reviewed several weeks ago. This time, carefully read the methodology sections. Examine the section's voice, structure, and writing style. Consider these questions:
How well does the methodology address the RQ and give us confidence that the author will be able to provide a compelling answer to the question?
What sources of evidence does the author need to collect? Is the author explicit about evidence needed?
Does the methodology allow for unexpected results? Is the methodology resilient, adaptable, robust?
Does the methodology section provide you a clear, detailed guidance? If YOU had to complete the research (rather than the original author), how far could you get (before you had to consult the proposal's author)?
Does the author anticipate various possible results — and the corresponding conclusions that each type of result would support?

2. Now turn your attention to your own proposed research project. Begin by restating your research question (revisiting it if necessary). Sketch out three distinctly different ways (using no more than one page each) to answer your own RQ (e.g., a survey research approach; an observational approach; a case study approach; a modeling approach; etc.). Then compare the three approaches: what are the advantages and downsides of each of the three approaches? Finally, rank the three approaches (1,2,3) based on several criteria: (A) how feasible is the project (i.e., can YOU do it)? (B) How well does each approach effectively answer your research question (rather than just indirectly provide broader insights about the topic)? (C) Which methodological approach do you favor? --> Bring your notes/answers to these questions to task #2 to class.

For suggestions about writing methodology sections, look at the publications in the ebrary section.
Do also review the relevant chapters on "Preparation of Proposals for Qualitative Research: Different Assumptions" (Ch 5) and
"Proposals for Mixed Methods Research" (Ch 6) in Locke, Lawrence F., Waneen Wyrick Spirduso, and Stephen J. Silverman. 2007. Proposals that work : a guide for planning dissertations and grant proposals.
also: Meloy, Judith M. 2001. Writing the Qualitative Dissertation : Understanding by Doing (2nd Edition). Florence, KY, USA: Routledge. [ebrary] (see Ch. 8: "Understanding by Doing: Methodology, Analysis, and So Forth")


February 18

first hour:

Guest: Josh Shake (current PhD student). dissertation topic: "Privatizing Urban Planning and the Struggle for Inclusive Urban Development:  New Redevelopment Forms and Participatory Planning in São Paulo"

rest of class:
discussion of your methods sections


Methods (ca. 5-6 pages) -- upload to ctools by Monday evening


February 25

[continuation of discussion of your methods sections; discussion of statement of impact/importance of research/problem statement]


Statement of impact/importance of research (ca. 1-2 pages)

NOTE: in preparation for our March session on case study research, please attend the March 25 LunchUP session on "Case Studies in Planning: A Framework for Discussion"


March 4 -- Mid-Semester Break - no class


March 11: Case Study Research

This week we take a break from focusing on your proposals to address a dominant approach in urban planning research: the case study.

readings (most in ctools: UP 835 001 W15 Resources / CLASS READINGS / CASE STUDY METHODS):

Ragin, Charles C. 1992. "Casing" and the Process of Social Inquiry. In What Is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry, edited by C. C. Ragin and H. S. Becker. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press (pp. 217-226).

Burawoy, Michael. 1998. The Extended Case Method. Sociological Theory 16:4-33.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2011, "Case Study," in Norman K. Denzin and Yvonna S. Lincoln, eds., The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th Edition (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2011), Chapter 17, pp. 301-316.

Flyvbjerg, Bent. 2004. Five misunderstandings about case-study research. In C. Seale, D. Silverman, J. Gubrium, & G. Gobo (Eds.), Qualitative Research Practice (pp. 420-434). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Walton, John. 1992. Making the Theoretical Case. In What Is a Case? Exploring the Foundations of Social Inquiry, edited by C. C. Ragin and H. S. Becker. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press (pp 121-137).

Hancké, Bob. 2009. Intelligent Research Design : A Guide for Beginning Researchers in the Social Sciences. Oxford, GBR: Oxford University Press. Ch. 3: "Constructing Case Studies and Comparisons" [ebrary]

Campbell, Scott. 2006. Making Analogies, not Generalizations: Planning Case Studies, Professional Knowledge and Theory Building. Paper presented at the the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference, Nov. 8-12, 2006, Ft. Worth, TX


see the selected sections from Robert Yin's two oft-cited books:
Yin, R. K. (1993). Applications of Case Study Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.
Yin, R. K. (1994). Case Study Research: design and methods (2nd ed.). Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.

not yet added:

George, Alexander L., and Andrew Bennett. 2005. Case Studies and Theory Development in the Social Sciences. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press. [to be scanned and uploaded]






Draft #1 of full proposal (ca. 25-30 pages) due by the weekend (Saturday morning, March 14) -- please (a) upload a copy to the ctools site and (b) give a copy to your advisor for feedback [note: if the course instructor is your advisor, please select another tentative committee member as an outside reader).


March 18: Workshopping the full draft: Round One

We will discuss two proposals today (each for 1+ hours), and the remaining one on March 25.
The two proposals discussed today are: (A) and (B)


The class should carefully read the two proposals for today and bring their comments to class.


March 25: Workshopping the full draft: Round One (continued)

first half: Discussion of Proposal (C)

second half: writing and revising abstracts. (Bring four copies of our abstract draft to class).


The class should carefully read the proposal for today and bring their comments to class.
Write a draft abstract for your proposal (aim for 250 words) and bring four copies to class.


April 1: Workshopping the full draft: Round TWO

We will conclude our review of your draft abstracts today, and then discuss one proposal
The proposal discussed today: (A)


You have two weeks to respond to Round 1 comments and revise your drafts. Please upload your Round 2 draft to ctools no later than Monday of the week you present (either this week or next). The class should carefully read the two proposals for today and bring their comments to class.


April 8: Workshopping the full draft: Round TWO (continued)

The proposals discussed today: (B) and (C)


The class should carefully read the proposals for today and bring their comments to class.


April 15: Dress Rehearsal

We will follow the same schedule as April 27: 20 minutes for presentations; 20 minutes for Q&A. Either bring your laptop or a USB drive with your presentation or email me your presentation.


April 27 (MONDAY): Public Presentations of final proposals (in room 2108)

[each student will have 35 minutes: 20 minutes for presentations; 15 minutes for Q&A]

9:10 - 9:45 • Devon McAslan: "Streets, Cities and Sustainability: Social Meaning, Cultural Practices and Preference of Urban Environments in Melbourne"

9:50 - 10:25 • Carla Maria Kayanan: "The Spatial Implications of Innovation: A Comparative Case Study of Four Innovation Ecosystems"

10:25 - 10:35 • BREAK

10:35 - 11:10 • James Fishelson: "Planning for a Shared Automated Transportation Future"

DONE! And we look forward to the formal defense of your proposal by December of 2015.