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Thread: Suggested strategy, sources and/or topic for a literature review in urban studies

  1. #1
    Member
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    Suggested strategy, sources and/or topic for a literature review in urban studies

    Hi,

    I'm an undergrad majoring in Urban Studies.

    I have a literature review to write yet I am having some trouble with the following:


    • narrowing down different topics
    • developing a research question
    • upon surverying different material I find, deciphering by title, if a piece is relevant to my question and
    • if it seems relevant, it oftentimes is wordy and few appear to be very relevant


    For example, I have decided to search based on one of the questions I came up with when reading the book Crabgrass Frontier by Kenneth T. Jackson that he did not delve as deep into, and asked:

    Q: Jackson states (216) that suburban development was preferred, on single-family, private homes. But how much was that really true and with better planning and growth management, maintenance and other variables, was it feasible for inner-city living to be preferred by a greater number of citizens? It seems to me that citizens “preferred” this living because it was presented as a better alternative in all regards; cost, cleanliness, health, amenities.

    I've tried using more broad and more narrow search terms, from the Jackson question to a more broad topic of urban planning and its history in the U.S. I don't seem to get too many hits for what I'm looking for. Should I look in more specific places like related-field journals or continue trying databases in the social sciences/urban studies abstract searches?

    I'm also having trouble with coming up with a topic that is (1) interesting to me, (2) not too narrow or broad and (3) has material to write a literature review on.

    Any questions for clarification or help, I'd really appreciate it.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    new brunswick, nj
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    Good source material. VERY broad topic. You didn't list your interests but you mentioned growth management and the nebulous "better planning"... so I'm thinking sustainability? That might be a little anachronistic (and don't forget to consider racism, transportation - highway development, and IMO the most important factor, cheap capital through changes in mortgages and the financial system), but you might want to look at environmental health, loss of open spaces in urban areas, or safety more in-depth and do a review on their contribution to suburbanization.

    If you're still not sure which way you want to go, Bob Beauregard, Peter Dreier, Thomas Sugrue, Janet Abu Lughod, and Susan Fainstein are some good reads.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally posted by jersbanks View post
    Good source material. VERY broad topic. You didn't list your interests but you mentioned growth management and the nebulous "better planning"... so I'm thinking sustainability? That might be a little anachronistic (and don't forget to consider racism, transportation - highway development, and IMO the most important factor, cheap capital through changes in mortgages and the financial system), but you might want to look at environmental health, loss of open spaces in urban areas, or safety more in-depth and do a review on their contribution to suburbanization.

    If you're still not sure which way you want to go, Bob Beauregard, Peter Dreier, Thomas Sugrue, Janet Abu Lughod, and Susan Fainstein are some good reads.
    Thanks for the reply.

    I didn't list my interests because I haven't really gotten deep into any particular subjects because I have yet to develop any key interests; many things interest me related to urban studies and the social sciences.

    I'm not so sure sustainability is anachronistic is the most appropriate word if you are referring to sustainability in the span of the 1800's and 1900's. If anything, I look at the past and think: "What were they thinking?", in relation to the continual expansion and suburbanization.

    All of those topics you mention are of interest to me, and race is one that is more salient and of interest to me being in the Metro Detroit area, quite a segregated metropolitan area.

    I can be quite a slow reader, so that is where I get in trouble. I start investing time into a topic, surverying literature, and I might get over a 1,000 hits in a database after inputting more broad terms. I see what type of "dish" I might be able to make with the different "ingredients" that come up, only to find that the names of the "ingredients" are either specific, broad, or not necessarily the right ingredient of what I am looking for. If I input more specific terms, I get very few ingredients.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by jersbanks View post
    Good source material. VERY broad topic.
    I agree: it's way too broad a topic for a literature review. Have you taken a look through the Journal of Planning Literature? It's the main journal in literature reviews in urban planning, and might give you ideas for narrowing your topic.

    Quote Originally posted by DTownDave22
    All of those topics you mention are of interest to me, and race is one that is more salient and of interest to me being in the Metro Detroit area, quite a segregated metropolitan area.
    If that's the case, you could write a literature review just looking at the research on residential segregation and race in Detroit -- assuming, of course, that the topic fit the requirements of your assignment.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    new brunswick, nj
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    a literature review of racism in segregation would be great and you'd have plenty to work from. It sounds like you might want to set up an appointment with one of your school's librarians. They're trained to teach research skills (something you can miss in your actual class).
    Last edited by jersbanks; 13 Apr 2010 at 1:30 AM. Reason: pedantic

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