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This is a presentation on how to build your problem statement given in the course AR3U012 Methods for Urbanism of the TU Delft (Delft University of Technology). This is prepared for students of urbanism, urban planning and urban design.

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  1. All problems are opportunities in disguise Problem statement Prepared by Roberto Rocco Chair Spatial Planning and Strategy, TU Delft !"#$$%&%()"%(*+)+,%Monday, 14February, 2011 1
  2. ANY Academic endeavour starts with a question Generic criteria Biggs & Buchler, 2008 ✤ Question (and answer) Question Answer ✤ Method ✤ Knowledge Methods ✤ Audience AUDIENCEMonday, 14February, 2011 2
  3. Context ✴The problem statement provides the context for the research study and typically generates QUESTIONS which the research hopes to answer (objective of the research) ✴In considering whether or not to move forward with a research project, you will generally spend some time considering the problem. Monday, 14February, 2011 3
  4. Hooking the reader ✴In your research project, the statement of the problem is the first part of the proposal to be read [apart from the title and the abstract, if you decide to have one]. The problem statement should "hook" the reader and establish a persuasive context for what follows.Monday, 14February, 2011 4
  5. What is the problem? ✴You need to be able to clearly answer the question: "what is the problem"? and "why is this problem worth my attention"? (this helps you define the RELEVANCE) ✴At the same time, the problem statement limits scope by focusing on some variables and not others. It also provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate why these variables are important. (ditto)Monday, 14February, 2011 5
  6. Is it transferable? ✴It is also important to be able to make your problem ‘”transferable”. Does it happen in other places (even with slight variations)? ✴This means that the problem at hand is not only a problem perceived by you as an individual (although you might have a special interest in it), but a problem that is recognized by society or by other members of the academic world. It can also be integrated and built upon by other people.Monday, 14February, 2011 6
  7. Remember: nothing is completely transferable But the main elements, MIGHT be. For instance: Regeneration strategies can be used by various cities with the same problems. Solutions for urbanization in flood-able areas in the Dutch Deltametropolis might be transferable to other Delta regions. Spatial solutions for urbanization in Haiti after the big earthquake of 2010 might be transferable to other areas afflicted by similar natural disasters.Monday, 14February, 2011 7
  8. What is the logic of enquiry? ✴MOST IMPORTANT, your problem must have some connection with spatial planning and design. Remember the LOGICS OF ENQUIRY. This means that the problem you want to analyze has some connection with space!Monday, 14February, 2011 8
  9. Remember there are different logics of enquiry You need to find the more relevant for your problem and for the disciplineMonday, 14February, 2011 9
  10. ✴Stating that China is industrializing quickly is not as relevant (for Urbanism) as stating that the rapid industrialization of China is producing massive urban growth!Monday, 14February, 2011 10
  11. Manageable in 1 year? ✴Another question arises: is your problem MANAGEABLE within the scope of spatial planning and design? ✴Is your problem manageable within the scope of the Masters Course of the TU Delft? (meaning: can you research and find design solutions for that problem within the framework given by the University)?Monday, 14February, 2011 11
  12. Perception + contradiction A clear and interesting statement of the problem at hand, in the form of: But (A) However, (B) Perception, fact, Although Perception, fact, value or belief In contrast value or belief In spite ofMonday, 14February, 2011 12
  13. Start by introducing the context highlighting the possibilities Utrecht is the fourth largest city in the Randstad (west part of the Netherlands) with approximately 300.000 inhabitants in 2009 (CBS, 2010). It is centrally located in the network of highways and railways of the country. It possesses the largest university of the country and a diversified service oriented economy (Gemeente Utrecht, 2007). In the last few years, the city has gained approximately 30.000 new dwellings (CBS, 2010).Monday, 14February, 2011 13
  14. But then introduce a problem or a set of problems HOWEVER, Utrecht does not take full advantage of its central position because of the chronic congestion of the roads surrounding the city. Inhabitants and commuters complain that it is very difficult to reach the city centre from the city ring road. Transferia (the Dutch concept of car parking near the ring roads) are unattractive and not so well connected. This is one of the structural elements making Utrecht less competitive in the Randstad in terms of office location, which is hampering city growth.Monday, 14February, 2011 14
  16. That’s your research question!Monday, 14February, 2011 16
  17. EXAMPLE Research Question ✴How to improve competitiveness of the city of Utrecht by improving connectivity and car accessibility to the city centre ?Monday, 14February, 2011 17
  18. Sub research questions Sub research questions are questions that aim to answer underlying elements of your main research question. They will help you define your research strategy by highlighting what are elements you need to know to answer your research question. 1. How is city competitiveness related to physical connectivity? 2. What are spatial/ geographical advantages of Utrecht? 3. How is the city of Utrecht performing in the Randstad?Monday, 14February, 2011 18
  19. Narrowed down research questions 1. Does accessibility and connectivity from new ring roads to city centres affect office occupancy? 2. What are structural problems hampering car accessibility from the ring-road to the city centre of Utrecht? 3. What is the function of transferia in improving car accessibility to the centre of Utrecht and how can they be improved?Monday, 14February, 2011 19
  20. Alternative ways of presentation We proudly present: Produced by: Adrian Hill, Advait Jani, Eline Bugarin, Lauren Abrahams, Adrian Hill Tahereh Keimanesh, Vahid Kiumarsi, Yingtian Zhang Of the European Masters of Urbanism (EMU-TU Delft) IN: “UTRECHT, A Place for knowledge” HTTP://VIMEO.COM/19253276Monday, 14February, 2011 20
  21. How did they do it? ✴They used ADOBE SUITE to put things together ✴PREMIERE for the film ✴ILLUSTRATOR for stills, plans and some of the stop-motion graphics ✴INDESIGN for stop motion graphics ✴PHOTOSHOP for perspectives ✴AFTER EFFECTS for some sequences ✴SOUNDBOOTH for the sound ✴SKETCHUP with a plugin called PODIUM ✴GOOGLE DOCS for the script + sharing info ✴ for the website.Monday, 14February, 2011 21
  22. Thanks! Questions? Write to With special thanks to Matt Smith (ChernobylBob) of Gloucester, UK, whose photos adorn these pages. Matt’s photographs are available at: Prepared by Roberto Rocco, TU Delft r.c.rocco@tudelft.nlMonday, 14February, 2011 22