Developing an understanding of research principles to support post-graduate education in the built environment

Scott, L. and Shaurette, M. (2012) Developing an understanding of research principles to support post-graduate education in the built environment. [Conference Proceedings]


Most research universities require some combination of standardized classroom teaching and independent research as part of a post-graduate level plan of study. Increasingly construction management, construction technology, architecture, and related programmes that award degrees related to the built environment (BE) are awarding post-graduate degrees. Frequently these degrees, unlike traditional engineering degrees which test theory from a quantitative or positivist position, relate to issues that are more difficult to measure using strictly quantifiable metrics. Because the managerial issues faced by these graduates deal with human interaction and behaviour, research in the BE often resembles social science research to a greater degree than traditional scientific research. As post-graduate programmes in the BE expand, there is an increasing need for student support in the research fundamentals that are required to complete valid research on construction and design issues. Small programmes can rely on the individual mentorship of students, but as student populations grow a more formalized approach is needed to support varying research methodologies employed by post-graduate students as they complete their thesis or dissertation obligations. This paper is an examination of the research fundamentals approach to post-graduate education being used by construction related research programmes in a sample of universities in the US and the UK/Ireland. Emphasis was placed on understanding the current educational support for the understanding of research fundamentals critical to research in the built environment. The paper utilizes both a literature review and a survey instrument. Specific areas of examination include information detailing the educational unit(s) within the university with responsibility for teaching research fundamentals, research fundamentals courses available, the research philosophy or approach emphasized, and the text or other literature support utilized to advance valid research design by post-graduate students. As academic processes develop at post-graduate level there appears to be a consensus that the need for research principles courses is accepted. Where the position differs is at what level this course should be offered.

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