|GEOG 5161: RESEARCH DESIGN
Department of Geography
Office: Guggenheim 315
Office Hrs: Tues. 3:00 - 5:00 PM
This course is the second semester in the sequence of required courses
for first-year graduate students. The overall goal of the second
semester is for students to define specific research questions and
develop a research strategy for their masters thesis or doctoral
dissertation. We will discuss methodologies in a general context,
but this is not a course on experimental design or specific research
techniques. Those subjects are highly specific to sub-disciplines
and are treated in numerous other courses (e.g. quantitative methods,
remote sensing, GIS). Instead, the methodological component of
this course deals with general research approaches in physical
geography and their relationships to broader scientific issues.
The course emphasizes practical aspects of getting started in a
research career and a range of career development topics including
ethical issues in conducting and communicating research.
The principal written product of this semester will be a research
proposal written in the format of a proposal for a funding
agency. Consequently, the amount of reading assigned in this
course is relatively modest to allow you sufficient time to concentrate
on developing your own research proposal. Early in the semester
you need to agree on a research topic with your advisor and on a
reading list appropriate for that topic.
We will begin the semester with a discussion of the role of science in
policymaking, and the increasing politicization of science. We
will then move to a discussion of scientific theories or models which
are most closely related to your thesis or dissertation topics.
The following several weeks will consist of workshops on the writing of
grant proposals, strategies for publishing research results, and
practice in the oral communication of research results.
The final section of the course will consist of student presentations
and discussions of drafts of their individual research proposals.
Students will receive peer reviews of their research proposals to aid
them in the final version of the proposal.
The success of the course depends on each student's identification of
specific research questions early in the semester. I expect that
there will be a substantial range in students' plans during their first
year in the program, but everyone should have a research proposal
completed by the end of this semester. It is essential that you
seek advice from your faculty advisor, especially during the early part
of the semester, to help you define your thesis topic.
This course closely follows the format of previous courses in Research
Design taught by Tom Veblen; I am grateful to Tom for developing the
course structure and for sharing his reading lists and course
short writing assignments, and class
Oral (15-minute) professional paper
Oral presentation on research
Comment: The research proposal must represent your own work, meaning it
should be written by you, and it should describe the work you intend to
do for your thesis. Proposals that reflect significant input from
others, or are built primarily around the broader goals of a large
research project, are not acceptable. I will provide guidelines
for structuring proposals in such cases.
Topic and Assignments
1/18 Course Overview
Assignment (due Jan. 24): In addition to reading the papers
listed below, try to locate a formal statement of a professional
society’s position on advocacy, and bring this to class with you.
Professional societies- AAG, AMS, AGU, and ESA- have somewhat different
views on this, thus it might be interesting to compare positions.
1/24 Emerging Issues 1. Science, Advocacy and
Costanza, R. 2001. Visions, values, valuation, and the need for an
ecological economics. Bioscience 51:459-468. [costanza_01.pdf
Schmidt, J.C., Webb, R.H., Valdez, R.A., Marzolf, G.A., and L.E.
Stevens, 1998, The roles of science and values in river restoration in
the Grand Canyon, BioScience, v. 48, p. 735-745. [schmidt_98.pdf
Pielke, Jr., R.A., 2006, When scientists politicize science,
Regulation, Spring, pp. 28-34. [pielke_06.pdf
(due Jan. 31): a 250 to 500 word statement that tentatively
defines your research problem and discusses its significance to your
sub-field. Try to justify your problem in terms of its potential
contribution to your sub-field (e.g. conceptually, methodologically, in
terms of new data, a new application, etc.). If appropriate, also
comment on its practical significance and potential broader impacts for
1/31 Emerging Issues 2. Interdisciplinary Work
2/7-2/14 The Use of
Theories and Models in Research Design
Brantley, S.L., and many others, 2006, Frontiers in Exploration of the
Critical Zone: Report of a workshop sponsored by the National Science
Foundation (NSF), October 24 26, 2005, Newark, DE, 30p. [CZEN_booklet.pdf
Torgersen, T., 2006, Observatories, think tanks, and community models
in the hydrologic and environmental sciences: How does it affect me?,
Water Resour. Res., 42, W06301, doi:10.1029/2005WR004466. [torgersen_05.pdf
Graybill, J.K., and others, 2006. A Rough Guide to Interdisciplinarity:
Graduate Student Perspectives, BioScience, v. 56, p. 757–763. [graybill_06.pdf
If you are interested, have a look at the web site for ROMEO, the
proposed observatory network for the Rocky Mountains [ http://www.romeonet.org/
Reading: Ch. 8-9 of Haynes-Young and
Select a model or theoretical concept (probably a small part of a
theory) which will be important to your thesis or dissertation
research. Prepare a 250 to 500 word critique of the model or
theory and a 20 minute oral presentation. The goal of the
presentation is to provide an opportunity for you to explore some of
the conceptual background to your proposed research. In some
cases it may be appropriate to treat your presentation as a tutorial on
a key concept/model in your field to inform a more general
audience. Explain the use of the model in your subfield, and try
to identify general questions to which your research will be
related. If your research will be on a method (e.g. remote
sensing applications) then your presentation might focus on the theory
underlying the method. The presentation is not intended to be a
summary of the thesis or dissertation proposal that you will present
later in the semester. Instead, focus the presentation on the
development and application of a model relevant to the research
questions you will examine.
Research Proposals and Ethics in the Conduct of Research
these two sessions we will
go over the practical aspects of developing a research proposal for a
funding agency. We will discuss issues of style and structure of
the proposal and, especially, the evaluation criteria of proposals for
research funding. We will also consider ethical aspects of
writing and reviewing research proposals.
Reading for 2/21: Chapin chapters 1-4
Reading for 2/28: Chapin chapters 5-8;
sample NSF proposals and reviewers' comments (read these to gain a
sense of what reviewers consider important in a research
proposal). Familiarize yourself with the Geography and Regional
Science Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Awards at
3/7-3/14 Workshops on
How to Write a Scientific Paper Present an Oral Scientific Paper
Anonymous. 2005b. Not-so-deep impact.
Clapham, P. 2005. Publish or perish. BioScience 55:390-391.
Gibaldi, J., 2003. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, 6th
Edition, Modern Language Association of
America, New York, 361 pp.
AGU Publication Guidelines: http://www.agu.org/pubs/pubs_guidelines.html
1) Identify approximately 10-15 journals that publish research
results in your subfield and classify them into one of the following
three categories: (a) elite journals, (b) highly respected
but not elite journals, (c) refereed journals of lesser impact.
2) Use the Science Citation Index (see CU Library WEB Site) to
explore citation patterns in your field. Take a list of 5 or 6
contributors in your subfield and examine how their work is being
cited. A formal analysis is not required. I just want you to be
familiar with citation patterns in your field.
3/21 Practice in the Oral Presentation of
Prepare a 15-minute formal research presentation according to the
instructions for the annual meeting of the Association of American
Geographers. Prepare an abstract according to the AAG
guidelines. The focus of the exercise is on effective
communication rather than the science itself. The presentation
should be on completed research (either your own or that of someone
else) in which your goal is to practice communicating research findings
as if you were presenting a paper at a professional/scientific
Note: this 15-minute research
presentation should not just be a preview of your research proposal
that you will discuss at length during a later week.
3/28 No class: Spring Break.
4/4 Scientific Methods and Research Approaches
in Physical Geography
I would like to hold a session to
discuss some of the qualitative methods (interviews and assessments)
that are used more commonly now to gauge people’s perceptions of the
environment or environmental issues, and/or to track the success of an
a new method or technique. I need to find an appropriate person
to lead this session.
Paper Presentations (three classes)
Each student will lead a 30-minute
discussion of the draft of his or her thesis or dissertation proposal.
Assignment: Write a
research proposal which conforms to the guidelines for the NSF Doctoral
Dissertation Improvement Awards (see the Geography and Regional Science
website). The written draft of the research proposal must be
circulated to the entire class at least three days before the date of
its discussion in class. The final, revised version is due May 8.
Each student will write a 1-3 page review of two of the draft proposals
(circulate these reviews to the class by April 30). The review
will respond to the evaluation criteria of NSF.
5/2 Mock NSF Panel Discussion
For each draft proposal, two students
will be assigned to briefly summarize and evaluate the proposal and
lead a panel discussion of the proposal. Based on that discussion
and their own reading of the proposal, each student will rank the
proposal according to the NSF criteria (excellent, very good, good,
fair, poor or no ranking).