SUM4100 – Research Methods and Project Design

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Course content

This course aims to provide students with a broad but thorough understanding of the various methods applied in the field of environment and development. In lectures, workshops, and seminars, the course explains the characteristics of different research methods, the theoretical assumptions behind each, and how they can be put to use in practical contexts. The course also deals with the challenge of doing interdisciplinary research, and of combining methods in a fruitful way. Finally, the course takes up how to design a research project, including formulating interesting research questions and chosing methods that contribute towards answering those. The course is in part a tool for students in their work towards producing a project description for their master’s theses. We recommend students to start thinking about their chosen topic early on. 

The course consists of four series of teaching activities: First, the methodological lectures take up central overarching questions of theory and methodology, and will provide an overview of the epistemological setting of various research methods. Second, lectures on concrete methods (two of which deal with mixing methods), form the main body of the course, and will provide insights into the development, characteristics, and contemporary uses of various methods, as well as explaining the differences, similarities, and overlaps between them. Third, seminars will make room for practical exercises, where the point is to apply and experiment with the various methods introduced in the lectures. Finally, practical workshops will be organized to help students towards the project proposal, which is to be submitted at the end of the course.

Learning outcome

What can you expect to derive from the course?

  • To better understand the dynamics of various methods used in the field of environment and development, including the theoretical assumptions and the practical uses of each – as well as how they can be combined;
  • To recognize and critically assess both the uses and the limitations of various methods, and to evaluate both the potentials and the problems of combining methods, and of doing interdisciplinarity research, more generally;
  • To analyze methods/methodologies as “ways of knowing” and to recognize how such ways of knowing can be used as practial tools of research;
  • To identify and discuss the challenges and dilemmas involved in applying methods in concrete, practical contexts;
  • To write and present academic texts, discuss problems in class, and comment on the work of peers.


This course is only for students who are enrolled in the Master Programme Culture, Environment and Sustainability

Overlapping courses


An average of three sessions (lectures or seminars) per week. Instruction and teaching is compulsory.

In autumn 2017, teaching will start in week 43. 


2018 - : A 10 page project description, graded pass/fail. In addition, students must submit obligatory assignments throughout the duration of the course. 

2017: 4 hour School exam in November (reduced because of transition to digital exam instead of hand written). In addition, students must write a 10 page project description to complete the course. The project description is graded pass/fail. 

2015 - 2016: 5 hour School exam in December and to complete the course, students must in addition write a 10 page project description (students are awarded either a passing or a failing grade on the project description).

2012-2014: The course has a 3 day Home Exam of maximum 10 pages. To complete the course, students must in addition write a 10 page project description (Students are awarded either a passing or a failing grade on the project description).

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a pass/fail scale. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Evaluation Autumn 2012

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language