In-person, Spring, First 5 weeks, 1 Credit, Tu/Th 11:30am - 12:45pm

Instructor: Carlo Salvinelli

Course Information

This course will provide conceptual and methodological tools that can be employed by students engaged in global engineering in different phases of international development projects and studies, and prepare students to undertake a field study in a foreign country. Community appraisal methods will be presented with emphasis on participatory research approaches, need assessment tools, and ethnographic methods; related cultural, ethical and personal issues will be also discusses. Furthermore, students will be introduced to secondary data gathering, and the usage of the main data resources on food and water security, energy access, and health status.

Learning Goals

  • Discuss international development community appraisal concepts, methods, and challenges.
  • Be familiar with the most commonly used qualitative and quantitative data collection methods and tools
  • Implement participatory and ethnographic methods.
  • Conduct a secondary data collection for a specific topic and context

Textbooks and Materials

There is no required text. Readings will consist of textbook chapters, peer-reviewed journal articles and reports. All required readings will be provided through Canvas. Check regularly on Canvas for information about lecture content, readings and assignments.

Course Calendar (subject to change)




Course introduction

CPF field Study

Overview of qualitative and quantitative methods


Participatory research approaches

  • Rapid Rural Appraisal
  • Participatory Rural Appraisal
  • Participatory approaches in urban areas

Power structures, change and culture, ethics and funding,  

communication in the field, contexts and their importance


Ethical issues

Ethnography and development studies

Ethnographic methods

Information gathering: OAT


Secondary Data Gathering:

  • Food security
  • Water security
  • Energy access
  • Health

Guest speaker


Effectiveness and appropriateness of global development research



Class participation (20% of final grade): class participation is an essential component of the requirements for successful completion of this course. Points for class participation are not simply guaranteed by attendance (which is required); participation consists of being present in class, reading all assignments prior to the beginning of class, and being an active member in class discussions and presentations.

Essays (30% of final grade): Students will write 3 essays (10% of final grade each) and about assigned topics, readings and case studies. Directions will be given in class and posted in Canvas.

Ethnographic Methods Assignment (30% of final grade): Students will use ethnographic methods to study different campus services and to improve the user experience of different parts of campus life. Deliverables include a report describing methodology and results (groups assignment) and an individual reflection.

Secondary Data Gathering: (30% of final grade): Students will select a country and conduct a research of secondary data about socio-economic indicators, food security, water access, energy access, and health status of the population. Results will be submitted in a report and presented in class. This is a group assignment.

Late Policy

The grade for late assignments will be reduced by 10 percentage points (on a 100 point scale) per day that the assignment is late. We may agree to make exceptions to this policy on a very limited basis, provided that the reason is very compelling and provided that you ask in advance.

Extra Credit (TBD points)

Extra credit assignments are not anticipated but may arise as the course progresses. 


There will be no exams in this course. 

Grading Scheme

Grades will be recorded in Canvas throughout the course. At the end of the term, the scores on all assignments are weighted by the percentages given above to determine a course score. Student grades will be determined as follows based on their course score rounded to the nearest single decimal place:


A: 100.0 to 93.0 percent

A-: 92.9 to 90.0 percent

B+: 89.9 to 87.0 percent

B: 86.9 to 83.0 percent

B-: 82.9 to 80.0 percent

C+: 79.9 to 77.0 percent

B: 76.9 to 73.0 percent

C-: 72.9 to 70.0 percent

D+: 69.9 to 67.0 percent

B: 66.9 to 63.0 percent

D-: 62.9 to 60.0 percent

F: 59.9 to 0 percent