Review Of Research Skills And Competencies Education Essay


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When studying my undergraduate degree I took notes for many of my lectures but, as I did not have to sit any written exams, were not heavily relied upon. I utilise this skill to ensure that I process any information presented on a power point. This skill needs to be developed further so I selectively take a written record of appropriate information presented visually and verbally. The last time I utilised any form of statistical analysis was for an A-Level statistics module which demonstrates I have the ability to perform statistical analysis. Interviewing is an essential skill when researching a topic in detail, particularly when exploring issues subjectively. I have utilised and developed this skill when researching my undergraduate dissertation where I interviewed two planning officers from Lincoln City Council. The interview was semi-structured where the interviewees were provided with a set of questions beforehand to highlight discussion areas but allowing for other topics to be explored. I can still develop this skill further so that I can extract information from subjects more efficiently. I have used and created a variety of questionnaires particularly while working with Bassetlaw District Council on Neighbourhood Plan consultations. I have discovered that it is essential that a questionnaire is structured and worded appropriately to ensure responses are unbiased. Questionnaires must be presented to a large proportion of the target audience to ensure that any assumptions are accurate. I enjoy learning about and understanding theories but in order to approach reality a variety of theories will need to be utilised. To ensure this is possible I need to improve awareness and understanding of a wide variety of theories, alongside this I also need to be aware of their appropriate application. I do not have experience using Geographical Information Systems but have the transferrable skills, developed throughout my undergraduate degree, to learn and utilise spatial analysis programs. Research philosophies is my weakest skill having only touched upon the intellectual thoughts of Plato during my undergraduate degree and one I intend to develop further through reading and encouraging philosophical thought. My undergraduate degree in Architecture required me to analyse the proposed site and surrounding context which also involved observing the behaviour and habits of people. Organisation is certainly one of my strongest skills illustrated by keeping my digital calendar up to date so I can keep track of when I have university, employment and work experience commitments. I feel that organisation is vital in every aspect of life including being punctual and reliable. I have used case studies all throughout my undergraduate degree to illustrate precedent work to support my proposals, illustrating the feasibility of my ideas. I feel that I could develop this skill further to take full advantage of the information case studies provide and learn about Flyvbjerg. I previously put research design to use for my undergraduate dissertation research. I feel this was reasonably successful as I received a good mark which also highlighted how import this skill is. I am aware of EDINA for mapping data supporting my projects at undergraduate level. There is vast amounts I still have to learn and develop in relation to data sources. Ethics are a very important aspect of research although I am not aware of David King's 3Rs, I do take it very seriously. This is a skill I am determined to improve significantly due to its importance within research. Listening is one of my strongest skills, developing this through my undergraduate degree where my work was regularly scrutinised according to a variety of professional and academic perspectives. My listening skills could be developed further but I intend to focus my efforts on high priority skills for example improving reading skills. I strongly believe that systematic thought will help produce strong and relevant information from research but this has to work in line with strong research design. This skill will need to be improved but I feel that I already have a strong foundation of systematic thought to build upon. Reading is something that I have to put a lot of time on as some texts I find hard to absorb and if there is ever a case where I do not understand the meaning of a word I look it up.

Summary of Dr Malcolm Tait's Research

Skills Chart.jpg


(University of Sheffield, 2012)

Dr Malcolm Tait, who works in the department of Town and Regional Planning at the University of Sheffield, studied geography at Durham University. Tait then went on to complete his Masters and PhD in the department where he is now a senior lecturer. Tait's research interests centre around the circulation of planning ideas and the relationships between actors within planning environments.

This is illustrated by his current research in the significance that trust plays in planning exploring this, alongside Chris Swain, in a variety of directions attempting to discover the extent in which the 'crisis of trust' exists in planning and its impacts. This research into trust was not limited to England as Tait also explored this in 'emerging regional planning arenas' in Denmark. He also took interest in the importance and materialisation of trust relationships in everyday planning work. Through British Academy finding Tait managed to carry out an ethnographic study of trust between local authority planners and other planning actors.

Another aspect of Tait's current research is of that in urban villages which investigated the augmentation, significance and implementation of this concept as a remarkable development model. One of the methods utilised in this exploration of urban villages was the evaluation of case studies from London, Birmingham and Merseyside.

The final aspect of Tait's research to be discussed is his work on theorising urban intervention which is based on his previous work on urban villages. Collaborating with Ole B Jensen, Tait is looking at issues in urban intervention theory analysing examples of urban villages from a variety of sources which include Business Improvement Districts exploring several issues in urban change management, use and distribution of models. Tait takes an interest in the methods used to create, deduce and implemented in urban development management investigating historic and influential plans with Aidan While.

Dr Malcolm Tait aims to relate his research to his teaching encouraging students to think about how we behave as planners which he feels is central to generate the best planning responses. The majority of Tait's teaching is projected based enabling students to become actors within real life situations.

Generating Reseach Ideas

Sustainable Development

What is Sustainable Development?

Sustainable development was defined by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987 within the Bruntland Report as "development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs". The concept and implementation of sustainable development is vital to ensure that the human race can survive indefinitely without exceeding the carrying capacity of the planet.

How is this subject topical?

The UK is currently in a period of austerity desperate for economic growth but compatibility of this and sustainable principles are regularly questioned (Confino, 2011). It is argued that planning restricts development in a time when it needs to be encouraged, good design and developer contributions make development unviable and planning should focus on other priorities opposed to promoting a good quality of life. Although it must be reiterated that planning should not provide a quick fix and should focus on the long term (Chang et al, 2012). Paul Ekins discusses the economics of climate change and the idea of environmental taxes, one way in which sustainability can support the economy, ensuring that people are responsible for any environmental externalities (Ekins, 2000) but does this just allow the affluent and powerful to pollute? Is it ethical to give more weight to economic growth opposed to the other principles of sustainable develpment?

Why does this subject of interest?

This interest was fuelled, not only because it is topical but also by my undergraduate dissertation where I explored the composition of the neighbourhood and how it could be reinvented to promote sustainability. During the research stages of my undergraduate dissertation I found Hugh Barton's (2000) work on Sustainable Communities inspiring as he addresses important concepts of the neighbourhood tackling real issues. This publication also stimulated my general interests in planning while studying architecture generating my desire to create better places opposed to better buildings. I do not have a background in economics but this does not mean I hold no interest for the topic, through researching this dissertation I intend to develop knowledge in this area.

What is this subject relevant to planning?

Sustainable development and planning are two extremely relevant subjects as the implementation of this concept is achieved through policies and planning processes. It is suggested by Richard Wakeford that "creating a nation where there is a presumption in favour of sustainable development requires a change in mindset among the people and their locally elected representatives encouraged by a greater sense of responsibility and accountability" (Wakeford, 2012) His argument is that local authorities should be responsible and accountable for their own budget and services. This will then encourage more people to get involved in local politics enforcing suitable permissions being granted for economic development but for this to be successful local people and elected representatives need a shift their approach; the latter will then be able to appropriately and positively lead their planning staff and be truly accountable to the local community.

Notes on 'Good' Research Questions

- The majority of research projects follow a similar structure. Imagine the structure of a research project taking an hourglass form:

Broad questions in area of interest [How can we encourage economic growth?] -> Narrowed/Focused Questions [Ethically, can more weight be given to economic growth over the other principles of sustainable development] -> Observation -> Analysis -> Research Conclusions -> Generalise back to Questions [Ethically can we encourage economic growth without compromising long term goals?]

- A large number of social research projects use a general problem as a starting point which is usually broad and cannot be tackled in a single research study [The current economic issues with the UK desperate for economic growth]. This leads to a narrowed question in the context of existing theory in order to address the problem [Ethically, can more weight be given to economic growth over the other principles of sustainable development] Often this question is still broad and requires a hypothesis to describe in detail what will happen in the study.

- In causal studies the variables of cause and effect are important along with the distinction between the two. There are two types of causes, ones the researcher can control and the ones they can't, whereas the effect is the outcome.

- Research in social sciences is always conducted in the social context where people are observed, measured and questioned. Unfortunately in most cases not everyone can be involved in a research project there for we must sample a representative group of people. The distinction between the theoretical population and the final sample needs to be made.

-In causal studies the focus is on the effects of a cause on an outcome which are directly related to the research question. A study like this would contain the following components:

-> The research problem

-> The research question

-> The cause

-> The people

-> The effect

-> The design

Summary of Grix (2002) (need to include specific references to Grix paper)

The article Introducing Students to the Generic Terminology of Social Research by Jonathan Grix has two significant aims; the first assisting students and academics to understand basic terminology used within social science research and the second enabling a clear understanding of the interrelationships between the core concepts of research in social sciences. Academics often use alike terms but associate them with unalike meanings leading to confusion, within both students and academics. In order for constructive discussion to take place students must understand not only the terminology of core concepts but also their relationship to one another. There are five core concepts of social science research; ontology is the assumption of what exists; epistemology is the discussion of what we can know about what exists; methodology refers to the limitations and potentialities of methods; methods is concerned about the techniques used to collect and analyse data and sources is the consideration of where data should be collected from. The importance of this understanding is demonstrated by the ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) urging for more comprehensive postgraduate training in research. Grix compared the terminology of social research to that of a bricklayer where a wall cannot be built without the full understanding of basic tools, how to use them and in what order. Any social science research needs to be supported by a transparent understanding of ontological and epistemological perspectives to defend our positions, recognise those of others, provide clarity discussing theory and social phenomena and to understand the crucial relationships between different components of research. In most cases ontology will be the starting point of research based on assumptions made social reality. An ontological position will be significantly affected by the researcher's cultural and academic context which can be see within objectivist and constructivist perspectives. Objectivism sees social phenomena independent of social actors whereas constructivism views social actors continually carrying out social phenomena. In order to consider an epistemological perspective the nature of social and political reality needs to be investigated. Epistemology is concerned with the theory of knowledge therefore is an important branch of philosophy with the intention of constructing new theories over those that already exist adapting to different contexts of research. For instance Grix questions if it is possible to apply a theory, developed within a western culture, to explain social phenomena in an Eastern European transition state. An epistemological position of a positivist (application of methods to grasp social reality) will require a contrasting methodology compared to an interpretivist perspective (utilises the subjective understanding of a social scientist) leading to different observations of social phenomena. Grix uses Plato's cave analogy to differential ontology and methodology which illustrates how people think directed by social and cultural norms, how different perspectives exist and alternative ways of knowledge gathering. It is vital that students understand how the researcher's experience and perspective impacts upon the entire research process. Grix provides a diagram of how the core concepts are linked disagreeing with method led research. I agree with Grix, as he pointed out this can easily lead to the incompatibility of the research methods and questions weakening the interconnectivity of core research concepts. Some research methods are favoured over others but this will not necessarily lead to good research. This can be achieved through applying all concepts appropriately and in order. These concepts are interconnected but this does not imply that one determines the other as Grix demonstrates using Putnam School's approach to the social capital debate taking a foundationalist ontological perspective and a positivist epistemological position but if you alter either perspective then this will lead to different research methods and sources. Grix concludes that this article is not encourage people to agree with his arguments but to demonstrate the impact of different research origins which in turn lead to different research strategies.

Data task 1 - see separate file

Data Task 1 -see separate file

Review of Nobel et al. (2004)

The aim of the paper Measuring multiple deprivation at the small-area-level, written in 2004 by Michael Noble, Gemma Wright, George Smith and Chris Dibben, is to collate the key aspects which support the indices of multiple deprivation; focusing on innovative methods employed in its modelling and the statistical processes behind the production of indices in order to measure multiple deprivation at the small-area level.

A background of area-level multiple deprivation is discussed indicating that the indices acknowledged in this paper are compositional in definition. This is an area identified as being deprived due to the high proportion of deprived people inhabiting the area. This paper adheres to a particular conceptual framework underpinned by deprivation being suffered by the individual as it is theoretically possible to collate measurements at an individual level to consider the entirety of deprivation. This argument is presented strongly referring to relevant literature highlighting that areas identified as being deprived could contain a majority of individuals experiencing low levels of deprivation and vice versa. This is because the majority of people who experience deprivation do not tend to live in areas identified as deprived.

The theoretical framework that underpins the measure of small-area deprivation presented here is utilised to give each indicator a weighting so indices can interact and the effect of two or more forms of deprivation can be measured. This can cause ethical problems as it can often be difficult to decide which aspects of deprivation should be assigned more weight than the others. There are five approaches to this; driven empirically, by literature, relevance to policy, arbitrary decisions or by consensus. Weighting causes the most significant issues when tackling forms of social deprivation as these are often subjective and difficult to measure. It is argued logically that even if weighting was dismissed this then implies that all forms of deprivation are equal thus someone with low income and poor health is equally deprived as an individual experiencing housing stress with poor access to services.

The methodology utilised in this paper consists of the identification of deprivation measures that can be reasonably combined demonstrated by measuring them accurately and testing for fitness. If any error arises this must be dealt with avoiding unintentional effects. The measure of each domain needs to have the capacity to be ranked and then standardised in order to form part of an index of deprivation with explicit weights.

The scale of sampling here is small, looking individually constructing a measure for small-area multiple deprivation therefore the reliability of a measure can easily be questioned. This has led to the use of shrinkage to make the resultant measures more robust. This involves adjusting unreliable scores towards a most robust score, for example the district or national mean.

Throughout the paper the authors discovered that measuring deprivation at the small-area level requires a transparent conceptual model which produces, using the best accessible data, a series of weighted measures. It was identified that the measures of small-area deprivation must be driven by the chosen conceptual framework not by data or statistical techniques. Weaknesses in the methodology were also highlighted needing further research refining the shrinkage estimation technique, exploring the areas from which strength should be borrowed to support robustness of indicators and selecting the appropriate domain weights.

Critical Review of Survey 1

a) This survey has largely utilised open ended questions as the information gathered will be used to identify any design problems which have not been predetermined. Open ended questions pose a problem for a backpacker who is highly mobile and would be best suited to closed questions which are quick to answer and easy to understand. Although this method may only highlight obvious design problems it should improve the response rate. The postcards were distributed disproportionately so data collected from different locations will be harder to compare. For example comparing Brisbane, where 2 hostels distributed the survey and Melbourne, where only one hostel distributed the survey but location could be irrelevant in this instance as the backpackers were asked not to worry about filling in the postcard in any particular location. The hostel staff were told to hand a postcard to each incoming guest and the hostel only had a limited supply of postcards therefore it would increase response rate if each guest was only given a card if they were willing to fill it in. There was a significantly disproportionate amount of surveys handed out by travel agencies compared with hostels, this could have an impact upon responses as a different type of backpacker may use a travel agency. If travel agencies were to distribute surveys then they should distribute a share which is equal to that of hostels. There were three versions of the survey circulated, this can cause issues when collating and comparing the feedback data especially when only 800 postcards were distributed in different locations making.

b) There are a few aspects of this survey that can be criticised. At no point within this survey does it reassure the respondents that the information they give will be kept confidential or will not be shared with any other party or for use other than specified although this should not affect response rate as the survey is anonymous and does not gather sensitive information. Some of the questions presented in this survey depend upon the experience of the backpacker; for instance one question asks "Think back to the last group of strangers you talked to. How did you meet and what did you do with them?" this presents a problem if the respondent has not made any contact with another group of did not interact with them. Finally this survey focuses on open questions which are helpful when exploring complex topics but are time consuming for the respondent, harder to analyse and, in this case, very little space available for an answer.

c) There are three main improvements I would put forward for this survey. Firstly I would recommend suing just one version. Secondly I think the survey should consist of predominantly closed questions with one or two open questions. This will improve the response rate as the respondent does not have to spend as much time filling in the postcard. Also the topics covered in all three versions can be covered in a single version utilising more closed questions which will be easier to analyse. Finally the surveys should be evenly distributed as this will improve the accuracy when comparing results.

Critical Review of Survey 2

a) Telephone interviews were used to conduct these surveys which present many different issues. Responses rates are likely to be low as respondents will often put the phone down before an explanation can be given. Long questions and surveys are not feasible as the respondent will lose interest quickly. Finally telephone surveys have intensive staff and facility needs which leads to increased costs particularly compared to other methods.

b) The first criticism for this survey is the use of informal language; an example of which is in question 1 with the use of the phrase 'these days'. Questions 1, 5, 8 and 9 all ask for the respondent to select their position but there is no 'undecided' option. Question 3 requires the participant to understand the definition of a recession, for many this could be misinterpreted. Throughout questions 5, 6 and 7 there are personal questions referring to the participants' financial situation which should be left until the end. Questions 8 and 9 will not truly represent the participants' opinion as their answers will be biased towards their political position.

c) I would recommend at least three of the following changes to be made to this survey. Firstly any questions forcing a positive or negative bias need to have an undecided option to avoid forcing an answer upon the respondent. Secondly questions 5, 6 and 7 needs moving to the end of the survey and finally any informal language needs replacing for example 'the national economy these days' could be changed to the current national economy'.

Critical Review of Survey 3

a) This survey is another example of a telephone survey which shares a number of the same issues discussed in survey 2. The response rate would have been increased by targeting weekday nights and weekend days as this is when people are most likely to be at home.

b) In questions 2, 3 and 7 the options available for the respondent are positively biased with only one negative choice. The only other criticism I can offer this survey is that question number 6 is very unclear and informal referring to 'things in the Central Valley'.

c) To improve this survey I would suggest that all questions should be spoken in a formal manner with clear meaning; this will allow the respondent to give an accurate answer and take the survey seriously and in confidence. The only other improvement I would recommend is to ensure any opinion questions are not biased by ensuring they are positively and negatively balanced with an undecided option.

Critical Review of Survey 4

a) This survey is a telephone survey but with a more sophisticated approach utilising the use of Computer assisted telephone interviewing which produces more accurate results. My only criticism to their method is minor; this is that there was a marginal difference between the number of respondents between a few of the countries.

b) One question focuses on topics most worrying in the respondent's country with eleven options; this presents an issue when conducted over the telephone as the response given can be influenced by the order in which they are read. Another question asks the respondent about their confidence in the British Government to deal with crime and violence; this requires knowledge of the British government for the respondent to give an accurate truthful answer.

c) I would recommend three improvements to this survey. Firstly to ensure that the same number of people participated in this survey from each country. Secondly I would suggest avoiding questions with many options when utilising the telephone survey method and finally not asking questions that require knowledge to answer to enable truthful, useful and accurate answers.

Review of Rae (2011)

Rae's article on Spatial Patterns of Labour Market Deprivation in Scotland has been written in response to the lack of progress made by policy interventions in poor areas, which struggle to link locations to their wider labour markets. The first argument put across by Rae is in support of the importance of this paper, highlighting that there is a gap in spatially focused labour market research. This research paper utilised data from the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation from 2004, 2006 and 2009; this data was used alongside literature focused around local labour markets, spatial concentrations and neighbourhoods to not only identify concentrations of worklessness but also to understand their characteristics.

There are both pros and cons when using the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation; the SIMD uses data from two years previous (except SIMD 2004 which uses data three years previous) therefore this creates a significant time lag which can produce out of date results, although SIMD data is often the best data available. On the other hand the data from the SIMD is produced for Data Zones which are calculated around an area of 800 people thus there is a high level of detail compared to other measures. Alongside this when comparing results from a number of years the use of periodical SIMD is useful as the method used to calculate it is consistent. The final criticism for the use of SIMD data is the weights given to the domains used to calculate multiple deprivation as these are often debated.

The preliminary results from Rae's research in this paper indicate concentrations of multiple and employment deprivation around urban areas. In addition to this Rae created a location quotient, used to represent an area's 'share' of Scotland's 10% most deprived which demonstrated patterns that show highly varied locations of concentrated deprivation. Progressing this further Rae uses Moran's I statistic which indicates the degree to which similar areas are clustered spatially. This did not produce significant results although it did highlight that, despite being highly concentrated, over time similar locations are becoming less spatially clustered. Rae argues that this is suggestive of urban 'sorting' which segregates different socio -economic groups.

Rae goes onto use the LISA statistical approach to identify where deprivation is most concentrated and how areas influence the global value. What this surprisingly uncovered is that a higher percentage of people in Glasgow and Edinburgh living in 'Low - Low' areas compared to those living in 'High-High' areas. Rae found that in Edinburgh the segregation of deprivation is due to the separateness of the areas opposed to their distance from more affluent areas whereas in Glasgow it is a case of both their geographical separation and isolation from other kinds of areas. A particular weakness in this paper is the real definition of the local labour markets as it is possible for jobs in close proximity to an area are still inaccessible for the local residents in that area.

Rae concludes with his argument that the examination of the data presented here indicates that labour market deprivation in Scotland is defined by its concentration and isolation. The data supporting this provides strong evidence that there are characteristics of high concentrations of isolated deprivation and isolated affluence. It is clear that this article identifies the need for clearer understanding of the true locality of labour markets and that both the spatial and temporal need to be considered simultaneously when looking to explore problems within longstanding policy particularly in relation to the concentration of deprivation.

Data Task 2 - see separate file

Data Task 2 - see separate file

Written reflection on the meaning of urban regeneration texts by Oatley (2000), the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2000) and the Social Exclusion Unit (2001) based on Jacobs (1999)

The theme that links the three papers is neighbourhood renewal, all of which take different perspectives. A subject can be seen to have a variety of meanings through different interpretations, influenced by a number of aspects. Jacobs (1999, 203) describes how different groups ascertain a particular interpretation in order to demonstrate and seek to fulfil their principles, which can be observed in all three papers. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation's (JRF) comments upon the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal are based upon numerous interpretations as the majority of sections covered are supported by commissioned research under their Area Regeneration Programme undertaken by different authors (JRF, 2000, 1). In New Labour's Approach to Age-old Problems Nick Oatley, academic and co-editor of Local Economy, comments upon the same subject, yet he takes a more economic perspective which is represented by the 56 times he uses the words 'economy' or 'economic' in the 12 page document. Comparing this to the JRF's comments, these words are only used 6 times in a similarly sized document and only 40 times in the Social Exclusion Unit's 127 page National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal document. Therefore it is clear how swayed Oatley's perspective is towards the economic aspects of the subject. Documents produced by agencies of the state also tend to have a hidden agenda to promote the actions of the state, for instance, in the aim of re-election. This can be witnessed through the discourse analysis of the document produced by the Social Exclusion Unit (2001) which demonstrates a separation between policy promises and government actions which is not unusual as this is also what was discovered of other state agencies presented by Jacobs (1999, 205). In Annex A of the Social exclusion unit's (2001, 68-73) document, which is a post consultation document on which the others commented, consultation responses addressed particularly those which support the national strategy. Those comments that claim area based approaches will not work, like Oatley (2000, 89) were not given response as they undermine the foundation of the strategy.

When using texts within planning research a researcher needs to consider a number qualities. The first is the authenticity, taking into consideration expectations of the document, who is responsible for its production, that it is from a reliable source and whether it is an original or a copy. This then leads to the second quality, credibility, where the researcher needs to consider the social context in which the document was constructed, how rigorous the author has been and if the document is free from error. Thirdly the representativeness of the document needs to be taken into consideration looking to see if it is part of a set, it's accessibility and if it represents documents of its type. The final quality to take into consideration is meaning, where there are three types: Intended meaning which is anticipated by the author, received meaning understood by the reader and finally intervening meaning discovered behind what is presented literally.

Review of Flyvbjerg (2006)

Flyvbjerg's (2006) five misunderstandings about case studies as a research method were: theoretical knowledge is better than practical knowledge, it is not possible to generalise from a single case, case studies are best used for generating hypotheses, they are biased towards verification and finally they are difficult to summarise.

Flyvbjerg presents very strong arguments when correcting these five misunderstandings. He argues that experts operate with detailed knowledge of numerous cases demonstrating that contextual knowledge and experiences are central to expertise because this experience allows someone to progress from the level of a beginner to that of an expert. The idea of the existence of misconceptions is also supported by Harvard University (Flyvbjerg, 2006, 222). Another argument presented in the correction of the first misunderstanding is that human behaviour, due to its complexity, cannot be processed meaningfully through theory and rule governed learning. Case studies also provide a solution to ritual academic work which is a result of dampened learning processes (Flyvbjerg, 2006, 223). Case studies are still needed and utilised, for instance in the DC Casebook found in Planning Magazine. In support of Flyvbjerg's views he presents a series of historic case studies which demonstrate not only how they can be successful within social sciences but also the physical sciences too; however he does not claim that the case study research method satisfies the needs of all problems being studied. He argues that not being able to generalise easily from a case study is not detrimental to its value as a research method, yet generalising can be used to implement the rigorous test of falsification presented by Karl Popper's (1959) case of finding the 'black swan'(Flyvbjerg, 2006, 226 -28). Addressing the third misunderstanding of case studies Flyvbjerg highlights the importance in the process of selecting a case study as representative or random sample case studies may not produce the strongest outcomes, taking this further he presents a table of types of selection and their purposes. (Flyvbjerg, 2006, 229-30) In response to the fourth misunderstanding Flyvbjerg describes the case study as having its own rigor, different to that of quantities methods but just as strict demonstrated by those who have changed their views, just to name a few: Campbell (1975),Ragin (1992), Geertz (1995), Wieviorka (1992) and of course himself (1998, 2001). Finally Flyvbjerg describes how the difficulty experienced when summarising a case study is not a disadvantage as leaving it open allows for different perspectives to be taken from a range of disciplines. Case studies are most beneficial when left as a narrative as this gives experiences a meaningful form, in addition to this there is often too much information presented by case studies to be summarised effectively (Flyvbjerg, 2006, 240 - 41).

I strongly agree with Flyvbjerg's views on the case study as a research method because he has presented them alongside explicit evidence and explanations. Many academics have reversed their opinions on the subject sharing that of Flyvbjerg's, demonstrating that this is not an isolated perspective and has existed historically through the work of Darwin and as far back as Aristotle and Galileo.

Summary of Ferrari and Rae (2011)

The definition of volatility relevant to this topic is "the condition of being likely to change suddenly and unexpectedly" (Collins English Dictionary, 2013) as this report addresses the impacts of housing market volatility in the UK, which is one of the highest globally. This report is constructed primarily of existing data sets and analysis, with additional analysis presented by Ferrari and Rae on housing prices, economic deprivation and population mobility. The primary focus of this report is on distinguishable areas of volatility within housing markets, regionally and nationally; although it is highlighted that relationships exist at smaller scales, these are beyond the scope of the report and not fully addressed. This broader spatial perspective is because Ferrari and Rae believe that there is excessive focus on longitudinal housing market volatility opposed to that of which is spatially focused. Derived from this Ferrari and Rae claim there is a strong relationship between housing market dynamics and population mobility. The former points satisfy the questioning of the construct, 'Volatility', but in relation to the research design, that by limiting the scope of this report to national and regional scales it may not be possible to observe the true impacts of high housing market volatility locally.

Analysing housing market dynamics over 40 years and developing the understanding between 'temporal volatility' and 'spatial volatility' further, Ferrari and Rae established a causal relationship between the economic growth strategy and recent housing market volatility in the UK, which impacts upon lives of individuals. It is clear that this relationship exists as a outcome of targeting particular geographical areas and sectors. Strong evidence, from a range of reliable sources, is presented to demonstrate this claim and that the most recent boom-bust cycle is different to those that occurred previously, supporting the internal validity of the report.

Ferrari and Rae conclude a chapter on housing market differential with a series of observations; housing markets were undermined by increasing population mobility, local economic change, access to and greater choice of cheaper owner occupation. Alongside this they describe how increasing house prices in the north created affordability concerns, despite the benefits of social housing and even as a result of numerous drives which have impacts upon housing markets, the price differentials between regions, socio-economic groups and HMR areas still exist.

When questioning the external validity of this report, the ability for the conclusions to be valid when generalised is of concern; This report has focused on the economic background of the population playing an important role of local housing market volatility, particularly the extreme cases of those most and least deprived. Ferrari and Rae conclude that in order for the impacts of high housing market volatility to be softened both economic and housing policy must work harmoniously. In order to generalise fairly the conclusions should be made upon a representative example of the general population, of which extreme cases are not. These conclusions were also drawn within a struggling economic period focusing on the most recent boom-bust cycle, which from the definition of volatility and discussion within this report, may not be of use when generalised for anticipation and mitigation of impacts as housing markets can change suddenly, unexpectedly and in a different manner.

Interview schedule: Perceptions of Sheffield (Local Authority Area)

The purpose of this interview is to support a research paper where a study is being carried out based on the Sheffield local authority area and perceptions associated with it. Thank you for your participation, the information provided here will be of great value to my research.

- How would you describe Sheffield?

-Ask relevant questions as to why

- What area(s) do you believe to fall within the Sheffield City Council Boundary?

- What part of Sheffield do you visit the most and for what purpose?

- Tell me a story about one of your recent visits to Sheffield and how did it made you feel?

- What was the intention of you visit?

- Did you feel safe?

- Did you have convenient access to facilities required on your visit?

- How did you feel about the built environment around you?

-In an ideal world, where would you chose to live in Sheffield and why?

- In response to answer ask questions to clarify or expand on details

- If you were to move house within the Sheffield local authority area, considering your current circumstances, where would you chose and why?

Once again thank you for your participation and I would like to reassure you that your responses will be dealt with confidentially.

Critical Reflection on Pilot Interview

Importance of Ethics in Social Research

Ethics within social research must be taken seriously as its importance is on par with that of intellectual coherence; for instance, if ethics was not taken into consideration, impacts beyond the scope of the research could not be taken into account, potentially having negative effects. A researcher has a number of competing obligations to society, research subjects, employers and colleagues. There are no firm guidelines advising how a correct ethical or political decision can be made and often the decisions are difficult to make as there is rarely a single, clear ethical solution. In order for a researcher to balance competing interests, through making compromises based upon context, it is vital that they have a clear understanding of ethics.

David King's three R's which represent his ethical code are: Rigour, Respect and Responsibility. In relation to my research I will need to be rigorous to ensure that data is collected reliably and honestly, upholding the integrity of both mine and the university's reputation. This can be achieved through ensuring the privacy and confidentiality of data collected from subjects is maintained alongside implementing strict systematic thought. I intend to collect the majority of my data through qualitative methods, primarily interviews, therefore respect is of even greater importance as there will be high levels of face to face contact with research subjects. Subjects need to be treated politely ensuring they are kept informed and able to withdraw at any point. If promised are made, for example providing incentives in return for participation in the interview, then these need to be upheld. As a researcher I will have a number of responsibilities which include ensuring formal consent is obtained, communication in all circumstances is made responsibly and appropriate risk assessments are carried out. These assessments can be using in identifying the true impacts of my research; these impacts could include political implications, legal issues, endorsing psychological stress and the capability to provide professional indemnity through confidentiality and anonymity. The university presents policies in relation to ethical conduct described, which I must abide by, as:

" of moral principles or values, principles of right or good behaviour in relating to others, and the rules and standards of conduct binding together members of a profession..." (University of Sheffield, 2008)

When undertaking research it is essential to consider whether it would be classified as high or low risk. High risk would involve research being conducted which would involve vulnerable participants and/or focuses on topics of a sensitive nature; for example working alongside children or research identifying the need for playgrounds in particular locations. I believe my research topic, focusing around the level to which sustainability has been integrated into the planning system, not to be of high risk.

Critical self-assessment of Progress in Research Skills

Since the beginning of this module I have been able to develop a number of my research skills and competencies. Note-taking skills have improved together with my reading skills as throughout the semester I have been reading more than ever before and taking a good set of notes from lectures and reading material in order to complete a number of assessments. Through the two data tasks within this research diary I have marginally improved my statistical analysis and data sources competencies where the use of Excel and data handling were a welcomed reminder for the two skills I have not utilised for some time. Resulting from a very detailed set of lectures on case studies and surveys I have broadened my knowledge in relation to these key research skills. The lectures have enabled me to think in depth about survey design and how response rates can be influenced by this. A particularly helpful paper was that of Flyvbjerg's Five Misunderstandings About Case-Study Research, with this I now understand the true value of the case study as research method and lectures have enabled me to grasp the purpose of different types of case studies. One competency that has been improved significantly over the semester is that of theories, where in a number of my modules this skill has been strengthened , for instance a key part to seminar discussion within the Values in Planning module has been based around collaborative and communicative planning. My knowledge in research philosophies was quite poor at the beginning of the semester but through the work presented by Grix (2002) has allowed me to understand the process of research, including the terms ontology and epistemology. Listening skills have always been a strength but they can often be put to the test when presented with, for example, challenging lectures first thing in the morning involving ethics and planning theory but despite this I managed to stay in touch with the subject and develop my ethical and theoretical knowledge. Ethics is an import aspect of professional conduct and also in any research carried out. After many lectures, assessments and work experience placements my ethical knowledge and conduct is at an outstanding level, which I also take pride in. Despite all of these improvements there are still areas which I need to continually develop, particularly those which will be of use in my dissertation. These include reading, theory, research philosophies, participant observation and interviewing competencies, although many of them are to a good standard I will progress these further through reading, practice and discussion.

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