MSc International Development: Environment Climate Change and Development / Course details

Year of entry: 2022

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Course unit details:
Understanding Development Research

Course unit fact file
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 is fundamental to changing it. Therefore what counts as authoritative knowledge, and how authoritative knowledge is constructed and conveyed, are essential for understanding development. The Understanding Development Research course takes on the task of understanding such knowledge.




The course aims to introduce students to key issues necessary for creating, obtaining, and evaluating information in development work.

In the first part of the course, we look at different ways of constructing development knowledge (e.g. with NGOs, World Bank). In the second part of the course, we examine a series of research methods to understand the advantages and weaknesses of particular methods. This will aid critical reading of articles which use these methods as well as your future research.

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

  • Gain knowledge of key research issues in development
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the principles underlying several development research methods
  • Critically interpret different kinds and sources of data used in development research.
  • Identify the political role played by development research both in fieldwork-based research projects and when larger development organisations foster research.
  • Design and implement Master’s level development research.

Intellectual skills

  • Gain analytical skills required to evaluate materials in development work

Practical skills

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

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  •  Engage in critical thinking, reflection, self-awareness and take responsibility for your learning
  • Undertake both team-based and independent work to deadlines
  • Handle information, evaluate, and analyse of different kinds of evidence
  • 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

Hammett et al (2015) Research and Fieldwork in Development. Abingdon: Routledge.

Robson & McCartan (2016) Real World Research, 4th edition. Wiley.

Skovdal M. and Cornish F. (2015) Qualitative Research for Development. Rugby: Practical Action Publishing.

The following books, journal articles and reports are recommended for the course.

Eisenhardt, K. (1989) Building theories from case-study research. Academy of Management Review, 14(4), 532-550.

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

Bazeley, P. (2018) Integrating Analyses in Mixed Method Research. London: Sage.

Harriss, J. (2002) The Case for cross-disciplinary approaches in international development. World Development, 30(3): 487-496.

Patel A, Webster R (2016) Pragmatic trials for non-communicable diseases: Relieving constraints. PLoS Med 13(3): e1001986. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001986

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

Turabian, K. L. (2018) A Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations. 9th edition. Chicago: Chicago University Press.

An updated reading list will be provided at the start of the semester.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 16
Practical classes & workshops 4
Tutorials 6
Independent study hours
Independent study 124

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Gindo Tampubolon Unit coordinator
Pritish Behuria Unit coordinator

Additional notes

GDI Programmes on which course unit is offered:

MSc International Development (core for all pathways)


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