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MSc Global Urban Development and Planning / Course details

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:
Understanding Development Research

Unit code MGDI70982
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Global Development Institute
Available as a free choice unit? No


Knowledge confers power. The ability to describe things, to say what causes things and to understand how the world is made up are fundamental to changing it. And therefore what counts as authoritative knowledge, and how authoritative knowledge is constructed and conveyed, is essential for understanding development. The Understanding Development Research course takes on the task of understanding knowledge.




Understanding Development Research aims to introduce students to key issues necessary for creating, obtaining, and evaluating data in development work.

In the first part of the course, we look at different ways of constructing development knowledge (e.g. with NGOs, through the World Bank). In the second part of the course, we become more practical, examining a series of research methods to understand the advantages, and pitfalls of particular methods. This will aid critical reading of different articles, which use these methods, as well as your future research. This will be agumented with a number of research skills workshops by researchers publishing on issues of development.

Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes are outlined below.

Students should be able to:

Teaching and learning methods

The course uses a range of teaching and learning methods, from lectures, classroom discussions and independent learning by students. Most two hour sessions will be predominantly lecture based. Questions and student participation are encouraged and welcomed. Students are expected to have completed the required readings for each session. There will also be five 2 hour tutorials or workshops for more in-depth discussion of how development researchers in practice contribute to published knowledge.


Knowledge and understanding


  • Have a knowledge of key research issues in development
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the principles underlying several development research methods
  • Be able to critically interpret different kinds and sources of data used in development research.
  • Be able to identify the political role played by development research both in fieldwork-based research projects and when larger development organisations foster research.
  • Be able to design and implement Masters-level development research.



Intellectual skills


  • The analytical skills required to evaluate data in development work

Practical skills


  • Development of practical skills, including knowledge of research methods used in development, and research skills to support dissertation writing.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Critical thinking, reflection, self-awareness and an ability to take responsibility for your learning.
  • Undertaking both team-based and independent work to deadlines.
  • Information handling skills, evaluation, and analysis of different kinds of evidence.
  • Ability to develop, articulate and sustain logical, structured and reasoned arguments in both written and oral contexts.

Employability skills

Analytical skills

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 50%
Report 50%

Feedback methods

Written formative and summative feedback will be delivered via Turnitin (Blackboard).

Students will be given the opportunity to submit short essay plans for feedback.

Tutorials will be primarily interactive and/or discussion-based.

Recommended reading

Banerjee, A.V. and Duflo, E. (2011) Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. Public Affairs: New York.

Desai, V. and Potter R. B. (2006) Doing Development Research. London: Sage.

Hammett, D., Twyman, C. and Graham, M. (2015) Research and Fieldwork in Development. Abingdon: Routledge.

Harriss, J. (2002) The Case for Cross-disciplinary Approaches in International Development. World Development, 30(3): 487-496.

Holland J with J Campbell, J. (eds.) (2005) Methods in Development Research: Combining Quantitative and Qualitative Development Research. London: ITDG Publications.

Mikkelsen, B. (2005) Methods for Development Work and Research : A New Guide for Practitioners. New Delhi and Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications.

Sachs, W. (eds.) (2010) The Development Dictionary: A Guide to Knowledge as Power. 2nd Edition. London: Zed Books.

Scheyvens, R. and Storey D. (2003) Development Fieldwork. A Practical Guide. London: Sage.

Söderbom, M., Teal, F., Eberhardt, M., Quinn, S. and Zeitlin, A (2015) Empirical Development Economics. London: Routledge.

Thomas, A. and Mohan, G. (eds.) (2007) Research Skills for Policy and Development. How to Find out Fast. London: Sage.

Utting, P. (2006) Reclaiming Development Agendas: Knowledge, Power and International Policy making. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Woodhouse P (2007) People as Informants. In: Thomas, A, and Mohan,G. (eds.) Research Skills for Policy and Development. London: Sage.Thomas A, Chataway J and Wuyts M (eds.) 1998. Finding Out Fast: Investigative Skills for Policy and Development, London: Sage

Thomas A and Mohan G (eds.) 2007 Research Skills for Policy and Development. How to find out fast. London: Sage.
Utting, P. (2006) Reclaiming Development Agendas: Knowledge, power and international policy making, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Woodhouse P (2007) 'People as informants' in: Thomas, A, and Mohan,G. (eds) Research Skills for Policy and Development. London: Sage.

Wuyts, Marc E., H. White, and C. Mukherjee (1998). Econometrics And Data Analysis For Developing Countries. London, Routledge.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 14
Tutorials 4
Independent study hours
Independent study 132

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gindo Tampubolon Unit coordinator

Additional notes

GDI Programmes on which course unit is offered:

MSc International Development (core for all pathways)

Monday 12:00-14:00 Lectures

Tuesday 12:00-14:00 Tutorials

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