GUS W282
Temple University

Research Methods in Geography
and Urban Studies

Course Instructor: Dr. Masucci
Course Meeting Time: Tuesday-Thursday 1:10-2:30 pm, Ritter Hall, Room 105
Office hours: Thursday, 2:30-4:30 pm,
Friday 11:00 am - 1:00 pm, or TBA - in USB 111
Temporary Email:
Phone: 1-4429

Return to Michele Masucci's Page 

Course Description 

This class is designed to help students learn the process of research design as it applies to specific areas of interest.  This involves (a) learning how to identify existing research on a subject, (b) learning how to assimilate an understanding of this existing scholarship into one's own interest in better understanding a specific problem, (c) learning how to develop new questions that form a basis for new research activities that contribute to, amend, or broaden the existing scholarship in a given area, (d) learning how to assess and implement appropriate information gathering techniques for expanding knowledge about specific problems, and (e) learning how to assess, evaluate, and examine information gathered towards addressing questions related to specific problems.

Course Prerequisites: None

Course Objectives

This class is writing intensive. Students will be expected to complete a research paper the demonstrates their understanding of the literature related to the problem they choose as the basis for their study, states a specific question based on the understanding of the previous research on this topic, appropriately selects a methodolgical approach for investigation of this problem, and a describes the outcomes of this research project as well as its broader implications for future study of the problem. Students are expected to demonstrate an ability to write about the results of their study as well as to provide an oral description of their work.

Course Themes

•    the use of computers in research and communication
•    the relationship between society and research
•    the relationship between industry and research
•    the concepts of scientific objectivity and subjective reality

Instructional Approach 

The approach to instruction will be guide students in developing a research paper that identifies and describes a researchable problem through conducting a review of the literature related to that problem, provides a problem justification, and describes an appropriate methodology and analysis and describes the outcomes of an implemented study of the problem. This paper should ultimately describe research that provides a unique contribution to the understanding of a social, environmental, or urban problem of interest to the student based on demonstrated understanding of the existing research related to that problem. 

Course Requirements 

1.  Development of a 20-30 page research report (guidelines will be discussed in class) that describes the research project that you engaged in during the semester.  The topic of this paper must be approved by the course instructor, along with your work plan, and methodological approach. This class will provide you with a structure and discussion about how to develop this paper. You are expected to attend class and complete all of the interim assignments that will lead up to the final report. (Final report - 50% of final grade) 

2.  Oral presentation of your research topic.  This presentation is to consist of the following items: 
a) description of the previous research that has been done on this topic
b) description of the problem you are addressing
c) statement of specific research question being asked
d) methodology used to conduct research- that is, a description of  your information gathering and assessment process that will be the basis of your research contribution in this problem area 
e) project outcomes
f) project implications        
(25% of final grade) 

3. Five Interim assignments are designed to breakdown the research process step - by - step. You are responsible for completing all assignments that lead to the development of your final project. (25% of final grade).

4.  Class attendance and participation: Students are expected to attend all classes.  Students are responsible for material covered during missed class time. No adjustments to the course expectations will be made due to missed class time. Moreover, since this is a research intensive course, students are expected to spend a minimum of three hours per hour of course instruction working independently on their research topics. Students who do not prepare for class will not be provided with feedback until they have demonstrated that they have put forward the necessary effort to fulfill the course assignments.


The grading scale is as follows:

  3.7 - 4.0    = A
  3.5 - 3.69  = A-
  3.4 - 3.49  = B+
  2.7 - 3.39  = B
  2.5 - 2.69  = B-
  2.4 - 2.49  = C+
  1.7 - 2.39  = C
  1.5 - 1.69  = C-
  .7   - 1.49  = D
  .69 or less = F 

Policy on Disabilities

Any student who has a need for accommodation based on the impact of a disability should contact me privately to discuss the specific situation as soon as possible. Disability Resources and Services at 215-204-1280 in 100 Ritter Annex can be contacted to coordinate reasonable accommodations for this class.

Learning Materials and Readings

This course will make use of Internet resources for research, including instruction in the use of secondary data sources, on-line catalog searches for previous research, on-line readings, and web resource centers related to topics of interest.

All students will complete an individualized reading list related to their research topic that will be approved by the instructor during the first five weeks of the class. This reading list will serve as the basis for developing the literature review. Students will also be provided with a comprehensive set of resources based on their topics of interest throughout the semester. These will be posted on updated versions of the course website.

Course Schedule

Week 1 - Introduction and "Contact"
Week 2 - Discussion of film "Contact" and introduction of course themes
Week 3 - Developing an individualized reading list to support writing a literature review
Week 4 - Library Research Skills
Week 5 - Annotated Bibliography Workshop
Week 6 - Methods 1 - Using and generating data sets
Week 7 - Methods 2 - Quantitative approaches for creating data sets
Week 8 - Methods 3 - Qualitative approaches for creating data sets
Week 9 - Methods 4 -  How to interpret results from study
Week 10 - Writing the final report
Week 11 - Formatting the final report
Week 12 - 14 -- Final Presentations

© MMMasucci 2003

Week 1 - CONTACT

The film “Contact” will serve as an introduction to three themes we will discuss during this semester as part of the objective of identifying, describing and applying methods in the fields of Geography and Research Methods. The themes are:

•    the use of computers in research and communication
•    the relationship between society and research
•    the relationship between industry and research
•    the concepts of scientific objectivity and subjective reality

The film also illustrates a series of methodologies related to different fields of studies that involve exploration, observation of phenomena, description, organization of findings, and theory building.

Take notes as you watch the film that include identifying each method of scientific observation and its purpose as it appears. Make a note of the context in which it appears in the film.

Here is an example of how you could construct your notes:

1.    Ellie notes location on map of each contact she makes with other radio operators as a child; the purpose is to be able to identify locations with which she has made contact
2.    Ellie notes identifies star location from radio signal received in Puerto Rico through triangulating signal receipt with other known stellar objects; purpose to determine whether or not the signal originates from a known entity (which in this case it does).
3.    Ellie uses a map of the solar system to identify origins of signals she captures to create a database of signals she has heard; purpose is to be able to identify unknown signatures in the future.

Week 2 - Comments Related to Film

Here are some notes that I wish to add to Dr. Joyce's presentation:

- The film is based on a book by the same title written by Carl Sagan. One of the main theories the book addresses is the possibility of travel via worm-holes.

What is relevant about the story to our task this semester is the relationship between exploration of space as a new frontier and the tradition of exploratory research that is one of the traditional foundations of Geographic knowledge. We will problematize the issue of knowledge and how to depict it throughout the semester.

- The VLA in Soccoro, New Mexico is authentic. Here is a link to its website:

Please investigate the site to learn more about how data is gathered. While scale and scope differ in gathering information from far away places as compared with say remote sensing techniques for gathering information from the surface of the earth, the researcher must address the dillema of how to define relevant data in terms of the problem at hand. What you should be reflecting on is the analogy between Dr. Arroway's problem (does extra terrestrial life exist) and creating a dataset from observations (in her case, radio signals, video tape, and her own perceptions) that can be drawn upon to address the problem at hand.

- Finally, there are two scenes which I recommend reviewing and reflecting upon.

First, the scene in the White House attended by the President and his advisors in which the various positions about whether or not to build the transport are debated provides valuable insights into the interrelationship between politics and scientific inquiry. Have you considered what process would be put in place to determine how to asses such new and innovative knowledge (in the case of the movie, the blueprint for creating the transport) that it extends beyond what we can currently conceive of? Why do you think this is relevant for a researcher to consider?

Second, the scene in which Dr. Arroway defends the value of her journey before a congressional task force illustrates in a poignant way the task that researchers share in common: defense of the knowledge they have aquired or constructed through the experiences they have had (or created) and approaches they have engaged in to gather information. How can we ever determine if perceptions of reality provide a strong enough basis for adding to what is generally considered as knowledge? As social scientists, I respectfully suggest that our perceptions and our methods for depicting and organizing that which is perceived, are central to any methodological undertaking.

Week 3 - Resources for Creating a Literature Review