This case study is defined by its research questions, field, research strategies or methodological approaches, and overall framework.
RESEARCH QUESTIONS AND RESEARCH OBJECTS
The working title of my thesis is modestly said rather vast: ”Finding any Place? Immigrants in city planning and city plans: Case Suvela in Espoo”. The research questions are baked in the title:
- How could immigrants’ participation be increased in city planning?
- What kind of urban places should be planned in multicultural housing areas?
These are the questions that I feel have most relevance for my work as a practising city planner. The how-question points at certain profitable city planning methods and the what-question to certain desirable characteristics of different urban places. These were the research objects of my research in the beginning. However, as the research advanced, I noticed that my research objects are the whole reciprocal interactive relationships between the city planner and immigrants and between immigrants and their built environment.
My research questions fall in the field of city planning, which is expressed already in the title. More precisely, my research concentrates on participatory city planning, which also can be lead from the first research question.
Even if participatory city planning is the main field, there are two minor side fields involved in the research as well: Social anthropology and service design. The latter one has come along during the research, while the former one has been there throughout the whole case study.
RESEARCH STRATEGIES AND METHODOLOGY
I have chosen altogether three different research strategies that define the methodological approach for my research: 1) ethnographic research, 2) grounded theory, and 3) action research.
- Ethnographic research allows me to survey the two phenomena – what happens between the city planner and immigrants as well as between immigrants and the built environment – holistically from different angles. For me ethnographic research is like a puzzle that reveals the picture only in the end. Ethnographic methodological approach was my first choice for the case study.
- Grounded theory evolved to be one of my research strategies during the research. It allows me to change the course of the research along the way on the basis of the research findings so far. This gives room to search for the missing pieces of the puzzle of the ethnographic research.
- Even if I had the will to give a voice to immigrant women already from the beginning of my case study, I started to take on action only towards the end. Action research makes it possible to test my research findings in a real-life environment by making a desired change in the research objects. In this sense action research comes very close to actual city planning. What differs them from each other, however, is the reflective and analytical grasp of performed planning activities.
I have chosen to use qualitative research methodology in my case study. It fits well the kind of research questions that ask ”how” or ”what kind of” as in my research.
My case study also falls in normative research when trying to find out how things should be done. More precisely, it represents constructive research when relying these investigations on empiricism, observations and measurements.
Feminist framework functions as a lens through which I look at my whole research. It means that I situate my research carefully by presenting openly those different sides of myself – woman, mother, city planner, Finn – that can have an effect on the way I conduct my research and thus my research results. This means that I will not try to hide the performing subject, the researcher, away from the research.
Feminist framework means also that I am as conscious to any underlying power structures in my research objects as I am concerning my own research.