Course code SDP415

SDP415 Theory of science for environment, development and planning studies

Norsk emneinformasjon

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Showing course contents for the educational year 2022 - 2023 .

Course responsible: Petter Andreas Næss
Teachers: Beata Sirowy, Rani Lill Anjum, Timothy Kevin Richardson, Anne Katrine Geelmuyden, Terje Bent Kvilhaug
ECTS credits: 5
Faculty: Faculty of Landscape and Society
Teaching language: EN
(NO=norsk, EN=Engelsk)
Limits of class size:
Teaching exam periods:
This course runs during the Autumn Semester, 21-25 November
Course frequency: Annually
First time: Study year 2018-2019
Preferential right:
PhD students belonging to the Faculty of Landscape and Society (LANDSAM).
Course contents:

How does your philosophical orientation affect your research? And how can an understanding of philosophy of science improve your research? This introductory course helps PhD candidates  answer these questions.

During the course we explore a number of philosophical perspectives on science - that is, systems of generalised views of the world that guide action - and consider how they influence scientific practices. Through this examination, we address questions of ontology, epistemology and ethics, but in an applied manner by questioning how philosophy affects interpretations of the purpose(s) of research, research design, methodology and methods. We also address the topic of interdisciplinary research practices as a foundation of many contemporary scientific endeavours.

The precise philosophical positions that are covered in the course are partly determined based on the background and academic interests of the enrolled PhD candidates. In previous years, they have included perspectives from critical realism, critical theory, post-structuralism, constructivism and interpretivism.

The course ends with a poster workshop through which we seek to further clarify and debate our individual philosophical beliefs and their consequences for what you deem to constitute ‘good’ science in your PhD research.

Learning outcome:

The principal learning outcomes that you will realise through this course are as follows:

  • Recognise points of difference and intersections between philosophical perspectives
  • Understand what is deemed worthwhile and ‘good’ science under different philosophical perspectives
  • Identify the philosophical values guiding your own and others scientific inquiries
  • Appraise the philosophical basis for research design decisions that we make and how they affect research outcomes
Learning activities:
The course will involve lectures/presentations, seminar activities, small and full group discussions, a poster workshop, and self-guided study.

A detailed reading list that includes literature on the particular philosophical perspective that we will cover in the course will be supplied to you prior to the start of the course. There are two introductory references that should be read before attending the course:

Moon, K. & Blackman, D. (2014) A guide to understanding social science research for natural scientists. Conservation Biology, 28 (5), 1167-1177, 2 in Bryman, A. (2016) Social research methods (fifth edition). Oxford University Press, Oxford. 

Two textbooks that cover this subject which I recommend are:

Howell, K. E. (2013) An introduction to the philosophy of methodology. Sage, London.Blaikie, N. & Priest, J. (2017) Social research: paradigms in action. Polity Press, Cambridge.

There are also some useful online resources available. The following informal lecture provides a highly watchable introduction to the subject:

David James: How to get clear about method, methodology, epistemology and ontology, once and for all:
Master degree in planning, landscape architecture, land management, public health science or another relevant subject. The candidate must be part of an approved  PhD program.
Recommended prerequisites:
Mandatory activity:
Submission of paper, participation in at least 80 % of the taught sessions, including attendance of the poster workshop.
Combined assessment: In order to pass the course, you must have attended and participated actively in at least 80% of the taught  sessions, including the final poster workshop; presented a poster summarising your philosophical orientation; and, submitted, and had approved by the course leader, a paper of 2000-3000 words. The paper will explore the philosophical orientation that you envisage, or are, applying in your PhD research.
Nominal workload:
Five full days of workshops including lectures, seminars, discussions (35 hrs), plus a poster session. In addition, 90 hrs of preparation, reading and independent work.
Entrance requirements:
Participants must be part of a PhD programme.
Type of course:
35 hours
Examination details: Portfolio: Passed / Not Passed