Reading Responses and Class Participation

It is essential for students to read the material assigned each week and to participate in the discussions in the seminar. Students should read all the required readings and pick one optional reading for the week. In order to promote reflection and substantive discussion, students will post a message to the class on the forum section of the class website about what they have read.  Each student should identify in their post which optional reading they read. These will be due on the nights before the class meets so that everyone can read each other's responses before class. [Note: the class website is not available to OCW users].

The reading responses will be graded more for fulfillment rather than quality so that students should feel free to write about any thoughts and questions about the day's assigned reading. I have provided discussion questions for each class session in order to help guide students in the reading, but you need not answer these questions in your reading responses.

Final Assignment

Students may opt to either write a final paper OR produce a critical map. Students will present their final assignment at the final class.

Final Paper: 15-20 Double-Spaced Pages

The point of the paper is to allow you to investigate a topic area more deeply or a particular strand of literature not already explored in class. This assignment is meant to serve the student's interests and to develop their critical thinking on a topic. Students may use this assignment in preparation for thesis work or to pursue a question of personal interest. However, the topic must be chosen in consultation with the professor. Below are two possible approaches to the final paper.

  1. One approach to the final paper would be to apply the property rights theories explored in the course to a real world case. The case could analyze a housing or urbanization phenomenon of a specific place and time. Identify issues that a property rights framework is helpful in illuminating and what aspects it does not address well. Then, discuss the implications for policy and/or design interventions, and what would need to be further studied.
  2. You can document and critically appraise a policy initiative that attempted to address housing conditions through property rights strategies (ex: transferable development rights, land trusts, titling, etc.) in a specific time and place. Your paper should review the problems it was intended to address and the logic behind how it was supposed to solve them. It should also explain the political context in which the intervention was brought about. Then give a critical appraisal of what happened or is happening in practice. Summarize the lessons learned and what you would suggest for further study.

Regardless of the approach taken for the final paper, your paper should survey no less than 10 scholarly articles, books, etc. It should contain the following sections:

  1. Literature review: Although you will be relating information about prior research done by others, you should have your own story to tell in the context of a critical assessment of that research. Ideally, this process results in conclusions about important questions yet to be answered or that can be answered in a better or more rigorous way.
  2. Evidence: You should find available secondary data (qualitative and/or quantitative) about your question and analyze it. This does not mean simply presenting published tables as facts but to critically question and interpret what it is saying, especially in regards to the literature you just reviewed.
  3. Conclusion: You should present a brief proposal for further study including a well-honed research question and a possible study design.

Final Map Project

An alternative to the longer final paper is to produce a critical map, mapping what is usually not mapped. The maps should be of a specific place and time(s) and help viewers see important dynamics in a housing or land use situation they might not have seen before. This option requires you to submit a visual document as well as accompanying text explaining what you did and what your intention was as well as presenting the project to the class during the last class meeting.

This option requires gathering data to map and then utilizing a visual system to represent the data. Please examine the readings in Ses #6 in advance to help you develop your ideas for the project. Another good reference book is:

Buy at Amazon Monmonier, Mark, and H. J. de Blij. How to Lie with Maps. 2nd ed. University of Chicago Press, 1996. ISBN: 9780226534213.

  1. Writeup: Explain what it is you are intending to map and why. Who is the intended viewer? Explain where you got the data (and how you got it if it is original) and any further analysis you did with the data. Critically discuss the limits of your data and your map: why did you choose the extent of the map that you did, what are you not showing and why, what are some of the biases of your data? List at least 10 references. 5-7 pages might be sufficient.
  2. Map: Please submit a pdf as well as a physical hard copy. While you may meet with me about visual strategies and computer applications, I will not be providing any tutorials so this option is for students who either have some graphic skills or are willing to experiment and learn them.