Urban Design & Planning Interdisciplinary PhD

Phase I Courses

The Core Curriculum

The core curriculum defines the intellectual foundation of the program. While the program retains considerable flexibility in defining a research agenda within the broad umbrella of urban planning and policy, it provides a common foundation for all students to build upon. The following are the core curriculum requirements. Students enter the program with a master’s degree, in fields ranging from planning and public affairs to natural and social sciences. Depending on the academic preparation of the student prior to matriculation, the core requirements can be met within two years.

Note: Coursework completed prior to Autumn 2020 may meet the requirements of either the current curriculum on these pages or of the Legacy Curriculum.  All Phase I and II course requirements can be tracked with this spreadsheet.

Required Courses

Phase I requirements involve 5 courses and most of them should be completed during the first year, unless schedule conflicts make this infeasible. Some courses from Phase II requirements may also be taken in the first year, to accelerate completion of the curriculum requirements.

Core Sequence

During Phase I of full-time coursework in the program, all URBDP PhD students must complete the required seminar sequence in Advanced Research Design (URBDP 591; 4 credits; Autumn of first year), Planning Theory (URBDP 592; 4 credits; Winter of first year), and Interdisciplinary Urban Research (URBDP 593; 4 credits; Autumn of second year). The purpose of this requirement is to provide a common foundation for students to develop and refine their interdisciplinary research agenda under the broad umbrella of urban planning and policy.

Course Course Title Quarter Credits
URBDP 591 Advanced Research Design Autumn 4
URBDP 592 Advanced Planning Theory Winter 4
URBDP 593 Interdisciplinary Urban Research Seminar Autumn 4

Phase I Research Methods

Phase I requirements also include two courses that introduce students to the applicability of quantitative and qualitative methods to doctoral-level research. Students at this stage should view these courses as helping them determine what aspects of their likely research topic may be pursued quantitatively, and what aspects may be pursued qualitatively. The courses should introduce to the student what basic or broad range of research methods exists in each of these categories.

Qualitative Research Methods

Phase I requirements includes the completion of a graduate qualitative research methods class offered either through URBDP or another related field.

Choose one of the following (students who have already mastered material offered in Phase 1 Qualitative Research courses, may take a qualitative course from the Phase 2 Advanced Research Design Methods cluster to meet this requirement).

Course Course Title Quarter Credits
COM 597 Special Topics: Interviewing for Social Research 5
EDC&I 505 Special Topics in Qualitative Methods: Interviewing & Observing Autumn 1-5
FRENCH 590 Qualitative Research Methods Autumn 1-10
GEOG 525 Advanced Qualitative Methods in Geography 5
HSERV 521 / ANTH 519 / G H 538 Advanced Qualitative Research Methods in Anthropology and Public Health Spring 5
HSTRY 598 Methods of Historical Research 5
JSIS 595/ LAW B 554/ SOC 555 Qualitative Case-Based Research Methods Autumn 1-15
POL S 502 Qualitative Research Methods 5
PUBPOL 525 Qualitative Field Methods and Analysis 4
SEFS 504 Research Processes in Forest Resources 4
SMEA 512 Interviewing Methods & Environmental Topics 3
SOC WL 581 Qualitative Research Methods and Design 3
URBDP 519 / ARCH 567 Qualitative Research Planning 3

Quantitative Research Methods

As part of Phase I requirements, students must pass one course in statistical methods at a graduate level. The appropriate course will depend on student’s prior mathematical experience, software knowledge and overall program goals. Students with limited statistical background may need to complete a pre-requisite course beforehand. In these cases, careful planning of course sequences is necessary.

Students should carefully evaluate their mathematical background, statistics software knowledge, and program goals to select the appropriate quantitative coursework.

Choose one of the following, with potential for substitution of alternative courses at a more advanced level (students who have already mastered material offered in Phase 1 Quantitative Research courses, may take a quantitative course from the Phase 2 Advanced Research Design Methods cluster to meet this requirement).

Course Course Title Quarter Credits
BIOST 518 Applied Biostatistics II Winter 4
CET 521 Inferential Data Analysis for Engineers Winter 3
CET 581 Travel Demand Forecasting Autumn 4
CS&SS 503/POL S 503 Advanced Quantitative Political Methodology Spring 5
CS&SS 504/STAT 504 Applied Regression Winter 4
PUBPOL 529 Advanced Quantitative Methods for Policy Analysis Autumn 4
QERM 514 Analysis of Ecological & Environmental Data 1ÿÿÿ Spring 4
SOC 505 Applied Social Statistics Winter 3

Note: for students needing a refresher in mathematics, the following options are recommended:

Course Course Title Quarter Credits
Math Camp Math Camp – Week long workshop, taught in September before fall quarter begins. Register through the Center for Statistical and Social Sciences. No credit. Autumn 0
CS&SS 505 Review of Mathematics for Social Scientists Spring 1
For students with no previous exposure to R statistical software, the following course is recommended:
CS&SS 508 Introduction to R Autumn, Winter 1

“The Phase I Paper”


The Phase 1 Paper is a mechanism for early evaluation of students’ progress in acquiring skills to conduct research, and their ability to make progress towards their PhD after one year. It will be developed through the sequence of the first year course requirements and supervised by the student’s first year advisory committee. It will provide students an opportunity to demonstrate the student’s ability to formulate a research question, frame it within the theory, review the literature, develop a research design, and address critical issues of conceptualization and measurement through a review of the literature and/or pilot application.

Paper structure

The paper can take the form of a critical review of literature or a pilot research project on a selected topic. The first option emphasizes the ability of students to position their research question and methods. The latter can be based on either existing or newly acquired data to fit within the time constraints. In both cases the paper needs to consider aspects of both urban planning theory and research methods in urban design and planning. Phase 1 of the program will culminate with the acceptance of a paper. The paper is to help students in narrowing down their research area and preparing students for their general exam and to help them focus on the literature of interest. The paper is an opportunity for students to review in a critical fashion the key literature on specific subjects or domains that are likely to form the basis of their future research.

Students will identify a research question, synthesize the existing literature, and specify the objectives of the paper. In the first option (literature review papers), students will develop a systematic literature review and summarize the state of knowledge and current gaps in addressing the research question. In the second option (pilot data analysis), students will identify the data and methods that will be used to address the question and discuss the analytical results of the pilot application.


The length of the paper is about 6000 words, excluding references, tables, and figures.

Time line and approval process

Students will submit an abstract for their phase 1 paper to their first year advisor at the end of the first year winter quarter. Students will work with their advisor to develop a plan for completing the paper through the first two weeks of Spring quarter. A first draft of the paper will be presented to the advisor by the end of the spring quarter. Students will revise their paper based on the advisor’s comments and submit the final paper by the end of summer.

Evaluation of Phase I

The procedure for evaluation of Phase I work and the decision to advance a student to Phase II will be based on a portfolio of the work completed in required courses in Phase I that includes:

  • Phase 1 Paper
  • Completion of the first two courses in the Core Sequence and Methods requirements
  • A Prospectus and Plan of Study for Phase II prepared by the student and approved by the student’s Advisory Committee that describes the general research area and fields of study the student wishes to pursue and the courses the student intends to take in Phase II, and
  • A designation of a Supervisory Committee to mentor the student during Phase II.