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Thread: Masters thesis

  1. #1
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    Masters thesis

    I am starting my masters thesis at the minute, but am having trouble coming up with a clear research question! I am interested in peak oil, climate change and sustainable communities, any help would be greatly appreciated! thanks!
    Last edited by Maire; 15 Sep 2011 at 10:38 AM. Reason: spelling

  2. #2
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    How does Northern Ireland fund its roads?
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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    Do you have any idea what direction you want to take this topic? Also what areas of planning do you want to focus on with your thesis? Then consider what research techniques you might want to use to achieve your research. It'll be much easier to formulate a research question once you have a better idea of what you're looking for.

    Just a couple off the top of my head though:

    How can sustainable communities mitigate the effects of peak oil and climate change?

    Will the politics behind climate change and peak oil hinder the development of sustainable communities?

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    Thanks Blide, I possibly want to go in the direction of discovering what opportunities or constraints planning has in the creation of sustainable communites, not really sure what areas of planning to focus on though?!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    You should do something against the grain, or at least something that is so focused that you won't get bogged down in a ton of data.
    If you are interested in sustainable development, maybe pick a particular city or area of a city and come up with a sustainable development plan. This route will give you more focus, more control, and allow you to collaborate with your thesis committee through exchange of ideas and technologies.

    I went this route for my master's thesis and decided to prepare an economic development plan for the central business district of my hometown. This research not only allowed me to excel in my thesis, but gave me valuable planning experience to include on my resume when I graduated and began job hunting.
    Occupy Your Brain!

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    The only reason I bring up the different planning areas is just that it's a way to narrow down your topic area. The topic you have right now is probably too broad, so it would be easier to either focus on a specific location or try to focus it more on one aspect of planning like transportation, urban design, or environmental. You can be more broad with a dissertation but you'll want to keep your thesis topic pretty manageable since you'll have a limited amount of time to research and write it.

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    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    The reason for my question is that here in the States we fund most of our transportation through taxing gasoline. The policies of conversation and keeping infastructure are on a collision course because we have typically relied on consumption to pay for things. Now that we have things like higher milage cars and a better incentive to use transit (due to high oil proces) we are seeing changes in transit demand while a need to upkeep roads, bridges and rail. The same is true for other utilies such as water, gas, or electricity. Low flush toilets, High efficency furnaces, and energy star appliances are reducing the use of utilities, but utilities still have to maintain the same distribution network so conservation is not necessarily leading to decreased costs, only decreased costs compared to if you don't conserve.

    The new reality is that we need to fundementally look at how we live in light of these issues. This means we cannot have policies that are an inevitiable train wreck and that account for changes in consumption.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  8. #8
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post

    The new reality is that we need to fundementally look at how we live in light of these issues. This means we cannot have policies that are an inevitiable train wreck and that account for changes in consumption.
    Policies that inevitable destroy one another? Never!

    DetroitPlanner actually raises a very interesting point that would probably make a great thesis if you can find a way to develop the question, produce a thesis, and defend it. You would first take a position on the issue and then offer some potential solution(s). I'm not sure how you would do this, but I bet that there are a few voices out there that have published along these lines and you could use their work as a starting point. This issue is interesting because it is a focused enough topic, but it requires a comprehensive evaluation of how we fund infrastructure, from planning, to environmental sustainability, to the tax code. I would save this one for a dissertation though and find something more bite sized for a thesis.
    Occupy Your Brain!

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    Thanks everyone, some really interesting ideas!

    @TerraSapient, I love that idea for my local hometown, altho I would be more interested in the environmental side of sustainability rather than the economic. If you wouldn't mind could you send me a copy of your thesis so I have an idea of how to go about it?

    @Blide, yeah I know what you mean, time is a big constraint, I would concentrate on the environmental side as I have said above!

    @DetroitPlanner, very interesting topic, and very worthwhile of research, however as TerraSapient says it is a huge topic and I am limited by time :/

    Thanks for all the suggestions though, greatly appreciated!

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    Agree with various posts. Do yourself a favor and view your Thesis as a project that will set you apart when seeking a planning job or promotion. Say to yourself is this something I can explain to the residents of a community and their elected officials and how does it benefit them from a day to day perspective? If your thesis provides no real world benefit, it will most likely end up as another very nice piece of academic research ending up on a shelf. If you intend to stay/pursue an academic career, disregard my suggestion.

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    Thanks pa350z! I think I'm goin to go with developing a sustainable development plan, or an energy descent plan, for my hometown, and (hopefully) it will be something I can explain to the residents of my community and how they will benefit from it! Your advice is much appreciated!

  12. #12
    Cyburbian TerraSapient's avatar
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    Maire, pa350z makes a great point and that is exactly what I did with my thesis, which is why I suggested you prepare a plan. If you are considering writing a sustainable development plan, just google "sustainable development plan". You will get several results that will help guide you on what to look at, how to prepare one, and you can even follow other plans as templates. Just note that this is a master's thesis and you are very restricted on time and resources, so rather than trying to address every single topic that you see in other plans, pick one or two and focus on those. You can discuss this with your thesis committee or graduate advisor.
    Occupy Your Brain!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    A lot of what the other people have said is spot on. And now I will add my unsolicited-not-quite-what-you-asked-for-in-your-post-input:

    Keep your research question and topic simple. You'll be working on this for what, a year? You're not going to solve all of our urban ills in that time. So when you finally come up with what you plan to answer, cut your scope by two thirds and then focus on answering your small question really, really well. It's much better to thoroughly examine a clear, simple issue than to end up with the aimless mess that results from taking on too large of a scope for your masters thesis.

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