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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Postgrad (School of Social and Political Studies)

Postgraduate Course: Researching International Development (Distance Learning) (PGSP11480)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate)
Course typeOnline Distance Learning AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is designed to provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to undertake research in the field of International Development, with an emphasis on the Dissertation for the MSc in International Development. These skills are imperative for academics, researchers, policy-makers, practitioners, activists, and avid scholars in fields of and related to International Development. Thus, they resonate with the ambitions and interests of the richly varied cohorts engaged in our ODL programmes.

To fulfil these objectives, the course first addresses research design in International Development, introducing students to dissertation research design and the components of rigorous research in development studies (the 'research cycle' and components specific to the subject). Next, we examine reflexivity, positionality, and ethics, stressing their importance in research carried out in the developing world, including the use of research assistants and / or enumerators, local knowledge, access and permits, and ethical and sustainable partnerships. Then we cover risk in fieldwork, elaborating on safe practices for local and foreign researchers and contingency plans and safeguards in the event of unforeseen security changes. Lessons and skills learned in these early sessions are subsequently applied to modules teaching best practices of specific methods widely used in development research, from traditional approaches like ethnography, interviews, and surveys to cutting-edge innovations in participatory techniques, visual methods, and social network research and analysis. The final class challenges students to link this research in development with its practice.

The course is distinct in its focus on mixed methods in the sense not only of mixing qualitative and quantitative data but also in the sense of combing the viewpoints offered by different approaches within the so-called qualitative (e.g. interview, ethnography, archival research) and quantitative methods (e.g. surveys, experiments). Considering the use of these approaches in tandem or in sequence (typically pursued in development studies), and its continuous emphasis on ethical considerations and informing policy and practice. Throughout the course, students complete activities related to each module, focusing on an aspect of research and / or dissertation design in practice. They are challenged to evaluate research designs and instruments and analyse such tools' applicability in terms of research question(s) and context(s). Each module also includes a video or real-time presentation in which a student or practitioner discusses their personal experiences planning and writing their dissertations and carrying out research in development. The presentation is followed by an asynchronous question and answer session through which students can engage further with the presenter and one another.
Course description This course is founded on the tacit understanding that International Development (ID) is an umbrella for various disciplines engaged with the subject. Likewise, ID's interdisciplinary and usually mixed methods research is often instrumental or applied, seeking to foster positive change (development) in policy and practice. Furthermore, ID research is carried out in the developing world, by a host of actors ranging from students and researchers to consultants and professional agencies, singularly or concertedly and for a great variety of purposes. These factors complicate research design and raise practical and ethical challenges most acutely experienced in ID. The over-arching aim of this course is to provide methods training bespoke to ID with a strong, maintained focus on these considerations and their effects on research, the researched, and the researcher. Upon completion of the course, our students are expected to have developed the skills and competencies needed to undertake the dissertation for the MSc in International Development and to evaluate and conduct research in ID in a rigorous, conscientious, and informed fashion.

In this vein, the course first addresses research design and dissertation research design in International Development (academic writing; identifying and defining research problems; formulating research objectives, questions and hypotheses; writing literature reviews; employing theories, methodologies, data collection methods, and analytical techniques; collecting data; analysing data; interpreting results; and drawing conclusions). Next, the course examines reflexivity, positionality, and ethics, stressing the particular roles of and responsibilities to participants, translators, assistants, and enumerators. We discuss gatekeepers, access, context, and potentially hidden agendas. The module emphasises ethical and sustainable partnerships and how to secure them beyond lip-service.

Lessons learned in these introductory modules are then applied in subsequent sessions that focus on specific methods, from traditional approaches like ethnography, interviews, and surveys to revolutionary breakthroughs in participatory and visual methods. These lectures are paired with online activities and exercises challenging students to design their own research instruments or assess their applicability in a given research context and / or framework. Each session is accompanied by a pre-recorded or real-time presentation by a student or practitioner conducting research or completing dissertations in ID, reflecting on their experiences. Students will have the opportunity to engage with presenters (and one another) further during an asynchronous question and answer session based on the talk. The final class examines the links between development research and practice.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Not available to visiting students (SS1) Quota:  42
Course Start Semester 1
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 70% of the course assessment will be based on a final essay (3000 words). This will be based on a question of choice from topics covered during the course. A list of possible essay titles will be provided but students may also devise their own title.

20% of the course assessment will be based on a portfolio of one mandatory e-tivity plus one more of the students choice of the on-line activities from the course.

10% based on participation in on-line discussion forums.
Feedback Not entered
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Critically reflect on the particular challenges of research in International Development (ID) - their roots, possible pitfalls, and potential for ethically minded, applied studies and sustainable partnerships.
  2. Identify principal research strategies and methodologies and understand their application in mixed methods designs in ID and developing world contexts.
  3. Consider and effectively manage complex ethical and professional issues and make informed judgments concerning issues addressed - or neglected - in current ethical and / or professional codes of best practice.
  4. Acquire knowledge of research design, the range of techniques of enquiry, and other skills needed to develop and conduct research for dissertations within the field of International Development.
  5. Ability to critically analyse a theme of their choosing in the field of International Development through dissertation research addressing that theme.
Reading List
Amadiume, I. 1993. 'The Mouth That Spoke a Falsehood Will Later Speak the Truth: Going Home to the Field in Eastern Nigeria'. In Gendered Field: Women, Men, and Ethnography, eds. D. Bell, P. Caplan and W.K. Jarim. London: Routledge.

Becker, Howard. 1998. Tricks of the Trade: How to Think about your Research While You┬┐re Doing It. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Beoku-Betts, J. 1994. 'When Black Is Not Enough: Doing Field Research among Gullah Women'. NWSA Journal, 6 (3). pp.413-33

Chambers, R. 2002. Participatory Workshops: A Sourcebook of 21 Sets of Ideas and Activities. London: Earthscan.

Crawford, Gordon, Lena J. Kruckenberg, Nicholas Loubere, and Rosemary Morgan. Understanding Global Development Research: Fieldwork Issues, Experiences and Reflections. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2017.

White, Patrick. 2009. Developing Research Questions: A Guide for Social Scientists. Palgrave.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By the end of the programme, students will be equipped with new skills in:

1. Critically understanding principally methodologies and strategies employed in International Development.

2. Plan and execute research projects and investigations.

3. Analytically examine, synthesise, and assess research and findings.

4. Communicate, using appropriate methods, to a range of audiences with differing levels of knowledge and / or expertise.

KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr George Karekwaivanane
Course secretaryMs Maria Brichs
Tel: (0131 6)51 3205
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