Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session


Planning and design for a city can seem abstract. When beginning a research project, some of the first questions to ask include: How do I gather information, find people to talk to or understand enough background about a problem to be able to discuss possible solutions? And, when we try to research topics in other countries, we have to struggle with a number of added barriers including: language, cultural differences, and imperfect information, among other usual research problems.

This course introduces undergraduate planning students to the role of the planner in researching issues in cities both in the United States and abroad. This course is a practical, hands-on workshop that challenges students to research, write and present their ideas on two different cities - A U.S. City (preferably somewhere close) and Copenhagen. Students will be equipped to:

  1. select and research a thesis topic,
  2. work professionally with faculty and other experts on the topic of choice, and
  3. research, write and present.

The end product for the class will be a research paper that provides a comparative analysis of the two cities. A comparative analysis is challenging because it asks you to research a topic from the U.S. perspective and then from the international perspective. For example, understanding low income housing policies in Boston can give you a frame of reference for understanding low income hosing policies in Denmark. At the same time, just because you understand the issues in the U.S. doesn’t mean that this perspective can directly translate to Copenhagen. There may be other issues, cultural, historical, etc that you will need to consider. Yet, by understanding your topic from the U.S. perspective, you will know what questions to ask. You will know what the primary issues are and your research will be easier to conduct. In other words, your questions will be richer, your ideas more clear, and your research time in Copenhagen will be more focused.

Booth, Wayne C., Gregory G. Colomb, and Joseph M. Williams. The Craft of Research. 2nd ed. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2003. ISBN: 0226065685.
This book is clear, to the point and one of the best books out there for guiding the development of research papers, theses, and dissertations. Many students and professionals have found it indispensable. This book is required in 11.Tht in the Fall.

Hansen, Kristine. A Rhetoric for the Social Sciences: A Guide to Academic and Professional Communication. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc, 1998. ISBN: 0134402723.
What I like about this book is its focus on explaining to students the different methodologies that can be used to research a topic.

Behling, John H. Guidelines for Preparing the Research Proposal. Revised ed. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1984. ISBN: 0819137340.
What I like about this book is that it clearly outlines the steps, pieces and parts to creating a research proposal.

Our 11.027 Class has Six Major Parts

The Comparative Planning Research Notebook

You will be expected to keep and update a research record for the semester. Your research record is the place where you write your observations, ideas and thoughts during the semester. Notebooks will be reviewed and graded at two points during the semester.


Each of you will pick a single topic to research in both the United States and Copenhagen. In order to figure out what you really want to study, you will be asked to think of three possible topic ideas to present visually to your classmates.

Pre-trip Writing

Once you decide on your topic, you need to start writing. Each of you will be guided to submit a two page proposal for study before we leave for Copenhagen. You will draft and redraft your proposal and then submit it to your peers for review to ensure clarity and direction. As part of your research you will interview faculty and/or alumni/ae on your topic as part of the proposal writing process.

The Trip

During the break, we will travel to Copenhagen to begin our on-site research (with our research notebooks). Here you will be sent to discover the city using a number of strategies including:

  • A Scavenger Hunt: You will be placed into groups of 3 to explore Copenhagen by following one of three scavenger hunts that the instructors are designing. The themes for the scavenger hunt will be related to some, but not all of your topics. Students will need to figure out puzzles, take pictures and answer questions in order to get “points” for finding various places and information throughout Copenhagen. Each group will document its progress using a digital camera and pen and paper. At the end of the day, each group will design and present a short presentation on the results of their scavenger hunts.
  • Meetings with Alumni/ae: You will meet with alumni/ae planners in the Copenhagen. We will hand you a schedule of the planners we intend to meet with once we have these dates set.
  • Individual Research Time: You will be allotted 2 days of individual research time. You will be free to visit libraries and museums or just ride the subway as you dig for information on your individual topics.

Post-trip Writing

Upon return, you will begin drafting and redrafting sections of your research paper and your oral presentation. We will have structured workshop time where questions can be asked and answered by instructors/other faculty, alumni/ae, and fellow students. Together we will talk about all that you have found and we will try to make sense of it.

The Final Product

  • Your Final Paper: You will draft a 15- to 20-page paper and turn it in before your final presentations at the end of the semester. Your papers are expected to include a strong thesis, background information, research and some findings and recommendations. It may be that some of you decide to expand this research into an undergraduate thesis.
  • Your Final Presentation: In addition, students will present for 10 minutes in the DUSP student forum on their research topics (dinner is usually provided). Student presentation will be video taped and reviewed with students.

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2006
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