Analytic Methods of Urban Planning: Qualitative

How can planners understand places in a rich, meaningful, and yet systematic way? This module examines how qualitative approaches can be used in planning practice and research. Qualitative methods are particularly useful in answering why and how questions; investigating differing perceptions and values; understanding unique situations; and helping describe complex situations.

Focused on learning-by-doing, the class examines how to design a qualitative research project and reviews a range of data collection and analysis methods useful in community and organizational environments. With the aid of well-thought-out conceptual frameworks, qualitative research can be designed to make a coherent and meaningful argument. Students learn about collecting and reviewing artifacts, observing places, asking questions, engaging with diverse groups, and using visual techniques. Such data are frequently organized into specific kinds of outputs including case studies, scenarios, and evaluations. Students will try out these approaches in weekly exercises.

By the end of the class, students will be able to:

1. Identify the range of qualitative methods commonly used in planning practice globally, including methods planners use themselves and those used in research planners commission and/or read.

2. Use different qualitative data collection and analytical approaches.

3. Comprehend the strengths and limitations of qualitative approaches and how they can be combined with other methods (mixed-method approaches).

4. Understand how qualitative methods can aid more complex and systematic understanding of urban places.

5. Critically assess qualitative research designs and outputs.

6. Design common forms of qualitative studies (e.g., assessing existing conditions, evaluating an intervention, preparing a case study, and developing future scenarios).

7. Appreciate ethical issues in qualitative research and their relationship to planning ethics more generally.