Senior Sequence

Urban Studies and Planning – Class of 2015

Doing Civically Engaged Research

Course Description and Learning Objectives: All students majoring in Urban Studies and Planning must complete the Senior Sequence during their senior year. The Sequence is made up of two classes including USP 186: Senior Sequence Research Proposal in the fall quarter, and USP 187: Senior Sequence Research Project in the winter quarter. Each student also completes 100 hours of service learning in an internship placement of their own choosing.

Over this six-month journey (September to March), students learn how to: (1) critically review and harvest research literature, (2) devise theoretical informed research questions and investigative strategies--in ways attuned to the value of community knowledge and establishing good community-university relationships, (3) write a scholarly research proposal, (4) execute proposed research ethically with civic and global-mindfulness, and (5) analyze, interpret, write, and share research findings while honoring UCSD’s principles of integrity of scholarship and integrity of research. The final requirement of the course is a Senior Research Project in the form of a 25 page scholarly thesis. Students share highlights of their Senior Research Project in a poster board presentation at Urban Studies and Planning’s annual Urban Expo in mid-March and in a brief video. In addition to learning research design, methods, and science communication, students gain the ability to critically examine ethical and professional aspects of scholarly research that is civically engaged.

Six Skills/Capabilities Students Develop in the Senior Sequence


  • Creating examined conceptualizations of select objects of study—i.e., theory-building


  • Becoming critically self-aware of your normative perspectives (calling into view ethics and the philosophy of social science)


  • Designing/applying investigative strategies through scholarship of engagement


  • Unpacking a whole into its component parts; examining a complex object, its elements, interdependencies and spatiality


  • Building, supporting, and presenting an evidence-based position or argument (through print and multimedia); working effectively as a member of a research team, listening to learn


  • Producing a clearly written research proposal, well-documented thesis, and scientific poster