All course information is listed within the syllabus.

CEDEV 575: Methods and Techniques for Community and Economic Development (3 credits). Understanding and applying methods and hands-on experience with techniques used in community and economic development.

Prerequisite: Graduate standing and approval of the instructor


Professor of CEDEV 575

Justine Lindemann
Assistant Professor in Community Development and Resilience

Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education

Phone (Office): 814-863-8646
E-mail: Use Canvas Inbox

Course Overview

This course provides you with an introduction to some of the key research methods and techniques used by community development professionals and researchers. The course is designed to give you an opportunity to think and write about issues you will face in conducting research as a community development professional. It will also provide you with experience conducting research in real-world settings. As such, the assignments will force you to consider the trade-offs and tough decisions that face professionals working in situations marked by power differentials, conflicting agendas, and time and resource constraints.

CEDEV 575 is taught over a 16 week period. Most modules are one week in length, but a few spans two weeks. Along the way, there will be several short written assignments that will give you the opportunity to express your opinions and demonstrate your mastery of the subject matter. At the end of the course, each student has the option to either design a research proposal to examine an important issue in his or her community or carry out an analysis of an important community issue or problem. We will discuss these options in more detail as the semester progresses.

Although this is an electronic course, there will be plenty of opportunities to interact with your fellow students through weekly discussion forums. For each weekly forum, I will post a question (or questions) designed to generate discussion among all of us. I will monitor the forum closely and respond to as many posts as possible. For the forums to be successful, it is important that you participate early and often. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE END OF THE MODULE TO POST A MESSAGE.

Course Objectives

By the end of CEDEV 575 you should be able to:

  • Identify primary and secondary sources of data that are appropriate for analyzing different community development issues and problems
  • Describe the strengths and weaknesses of different types of primary and secondary data
  • Apply qualitative and quantitative techniques for analyzing community and economic development
  • Explain the strengths and weaknesses of different techniques for analyzing community and economic development
  • Identify the ethical issues involved in community and economic development research
  • Analyze local power structures and articulate the role they play in community and economic development
  • Critically assess key tools for understanding linkages in local economic structure
  • Develop a grant proposal that is suitable for submission to a funding agency
  • Design a project that will analyze an important community or economic development issue in a community of your choosing

Course Schedule

For due dates, refer to the Course Summary on the Syllabus page in Canvas.

Module Readings

Module 1: Overview of Community and Community Studies

  • Warren, R. 1978. Chapter 2. "Older and Newer Approaches to Community." In R. Warren. 1972. The Community in Rural America. Chicago: Rand McNally.
  • Wilkinson, K.P. 1991. "Introduction: Studying the Community in Rural America." and Chapter 1. "The Community: An Interactional Approach." In K.P. Wilkinson. 1991. The Community in Rural America. New York: Greenwood Press.

Module 2: Research Basics

  • Warren, R. 1978. Chapter 2. "Older and Newer Approaches to Community." In R. Warren. 1972. The Community in Rural America. Chicago: Rand McNally.
  • Wilkinson, K.P. 1991. "Introduction: Studying the Community in Rural America." and Chapter 1. "The Community: An Interactional Approach." In K.P. Wilkinson. 1991. The Community in Rural America. New York: Greenwood Press.

In this module, you will choose a preliminary research topic, compile an initial bibliography related to that topic, and identify key issues related to your topic.

Module 3: Developing a Community Profile

No readings. Sources of secondary data:

Module 4: Appraisals, Approaches, and Techniques

  • Participatory Rural Appraisal/Rapid Rural Appraisal
    • Chambers, R. 1992. Rural Appraisal: Rapid, Relaxed, and Participatory. Institute of Development Studies Discussion Paper 311. October. 68 pp.
    • Cornwell, A. and G. Pratt. Pathways to Participation: Critical Reflections on PRA. UK: Institute of Development Studies (IDS), The Participation Group. 12 pp.

Optional Readings

  • Kretzmann, J. and J. McKnight. 1993. Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community's Assets. Chicago, IL: ACTA Publications.
  • Beaulieu, L.J. (Bo). Mapping the Assets of Your Community: A Key Component for Building Local Capacity. Southern Rural Development Center. (Supplementary materials - i.e., links to the workshop materials - are optional).

 Module 5: Research Ethics

  • Bridger, J.C., and T.R. Alter. 2009. "Public Sociology and Public Scholarship." Unpublished Manuscript.
  • Burawoy, M. 2007. "For Public Sociology." Pp. 23-64 in D. Clawson et al. (eds.). Public Sociology. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Dewalt, K.M., and B.R. Dewalt. 2002. Pp. 249-263 in Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers. New York: Altimira Press.
    • Listed as as "Doing Participant Observation: Becoming a Participant
  • Flyvbjerg, B. 2001. Pp. 53-65 in Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again. New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Listed as "Values in Social and Political Inquiry"
  • Schram, S.F. 2006. "Return to Politics: Perestroika, Phronesis, and Post-Paradigmatic Political Science." Pp. 17-31 in S.F. Schram and B. Caterino (eds.), Making Political Science Matter. New York: New York University Press.
  • Singleton, R.A. Jr., and B.C. Straits. 2005. "Research Ethics" pp. 515-539 in Approaches to Social Research, Fourth Edition. New York: Cambridge University Press

Module 6: Gathering Qualitative Data

  • DeWalt, K.M. and B.R. DeWalt. 2002. "Doing Participant Observation: Becoming a Participant." Pp. 35-66 in Participant Observation: A Guide for Fieldworkers. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Denzin, N.K. 1989. "The Sociological Interview." Pp. 102-120 in The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Kidd, Pamela S., and Mark B. Parshall. 2000. "Getting the Focus and the Group: Enhancing Analytical Rigor in Focus Group Research." Qualitative Health Research 10: pp. 293-308.
  • Krannich, R.S. and C.R. Humphrey. 1986. "Using Key Informant Data in Comparative Community Research." Sociological Methods Research 14:473-493.
  • Morgan, David L., 1996. "Focus Groups." Annual Review of Sociology. Vol. 22. pp. 129-152.

Module 7: Analyzing Community Power Structures

  • Beckley, T. 1996. "Pluralism By Default: Community Power in a Paper Mill Town." Forest Science 42(1):35-45.
  • Blankenship, L.V. 1964. "Community Power and Decision-Making: A Comparative Evaluation of Measurement Techniques." Social Forces 43(2):207-216.
  • Polsby, N.W. "How to Study Community Power: The Pluralist Alternative." The Journal of Politics 22(3):474-484.
  • Wildavsky, A. B. 2004. "Who Rules in Oberlin and Why." Pp. 253-281 in Leadership in a Small Town. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers.

Module 8: Gathering Quantitative Data and Use of Survey Techniques

  • Carson, R.T. 2000. "Contingent Valuation: A User's Guide." Environmental Science and Technology 34:1413-1418.
  • Dillman, D.A. 2007. "Introduction to Tailored Design." Pp. 3-31 in Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Dillman, D.A. 2007. "Internet and Interactive Voice Response Surveys." Pp. 352-412 in Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.
  • Dillman, Don. (2007) Chapter 11: Internet and Interactive Voice Response Surveys. In: Mail and Internet Surveys: The Tailored Design Method, 2nd Edition, Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons Inc., pp.353-412.
  • Denzin, N.K. 1989. "The Social Survey and Its Variations." Pp. 138-156 in The Research Act: A Theoretical Introduction to Sociological Methods. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
  • Royce A. Singleton, J. and B.C. Straits. 2005. "Elements of Research Design." Pp. 43-72 in Approaches to Social Research. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
  • Sue, Valerie M. and Lois A. Ritter (2012) Conducting Online Surveys, 2nd edition, Los Angeles: Sage Publications, Chapters 1-6 pp.1-138.


Module 9: Case Study Research

  • Flyvbjerg, B. 2001. "The Power of Example." Pp. 66-87 in B. Flyvbjerg. Making Social Science Matter: Why Social Inquiry Fails and How it Can Succeed Again. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    • Listed as "Values in Social and Political Inquiry"
  • Orum, A.M. , J.R. Feagin, and G. Sjoberg. 1991. "Introduction: The Nature of the Case Study." Pp. 1-26 in J.R. Feagin, A.M. Orum, and G. Sjoberg (eds.), A Case for the Case Study. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Orum, A.M. and J.R. Feagin 1991. "A Tale of Two Cases." Pp. 122-147 in J. R. Feagin, A.M. Orum, and G. Sjoberg (eds.), A Case for the Case Study. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  • Sjoberg, G., N. Williams, T.R. Vaughan, and A.F. Sjoberg. 1991. "The Case Study Approach in Social Research: Basic Methodological Issues" Pp. 27-79 in J.R. Feagin, A.M. Orum, and G. Sjoberg (eds.), A Case for the Case Study. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Module 10: Community Needs Assessment

The following are lists of some assessment resources.

Educational Sources

  • University of Kansas—This site offers a basic overview and introduction to a needs assessment survey (what, why, when, who, and how). Contains a checklist that summarizes the main points in the section. Overheads that summarize the main ideas and major points relating to needs assessment surveys.
  • Reach Program—Carter and Beaulieu article discussing needs assessments. Has a section on various methods for data collection with corresponding advantages/disadvantages.
  • University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign—Thorough site that has information on "why" a survey would be conducted, nine steps for a community survey (decision wheel), necessary steps in conducting a needs assessment, how communities can obtain help, survey sample size (response rates, costs, time, level of accuracy, etc.).
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln—Contains a basic overview of community needs assessment including basic information on different "approaches" to conducting a needs assessment.
  • University of Nevada-Reno—A guide and bibliography with processes, methods, and examples of different approaches to needs assessment across the western region (including Alaska and Hawai'i).
  • North Dakota State University—Contains a summary, survey results, and focus group results of a needs assessment in Otter Tail County, Minnesota.

Commercial Sources

  • Question Pro—Fully functional web-based survey software with complete tools for design, implementation, and analysis. Free for non-profit and academic use (with certain limitations). No ability to create paper surveys.
  • Snap Surveys—Fully functional survey software with similar tools to Question Pro but includes the ability to create paper surveys. Links to sample surveys appear on the left side of the webpage.
  • Survey Monkey—Free (with limitations) web-based survey software with tools for creating and analyzing surveys.
  • Survey Pro—Extensive software for design, implementation, and data entry (of paper surveys). Fully functional analysis tools and ability to export results and create "polished" summaries of results.
  • StatPac—Survey software for web surveys, written questionnaires, and telephone interviewing. Full survey design and analysis capabilities.

 Module 11: Disseminating Research Findings

  • Bardach, E. 1984. "The Dissemination of Policy Research to Policymakers." Science Communication 6:125-144.
  • Becker, H. 1986. "Freshman English for Graduate Students." Pp.1-25 in H. Becker, Writing for Social Scientists. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Fischer, F. 2005. "The Environments of Argument." Pp. 241-262 in F. Fischer, Citizens, Experts, and the Environment. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Module 12: Grant Writing

No readings for this module. Learning objectives include:

  • describe major sources of information on external grants available for economic and community development.
  • describe the most common components of grant proposals, with an understanding of when a proposal is strong and when it is not.
  • develop a grant proposal that has a high likelihood of being funded.

Module 13: Final Project

Option 1: PRA/RRA interviews (conduct a second set)

Option 2: Conducting focus groups

Option 3: Revised survey (10+ individuals) to explore a community issue

Course Materials


This course requires that you access Penn State library materials specifically reserved for this course. You can access these materials by selecting Library Resources in the Course Navigation Menu, or by accessing the Library E-Reserves Search and searching for your instructor's last name.

Note: You must have an active Penn State Access Account and be registered with the University Libraries in order to take full advantage of the Libraries' resources and services. Registration and services are free!

Recommended, but not required, readings that are not in the E-Reserves can be found on a module's Overview page.

The following book on questionnaire design is also recommended but not required:

  • Salant, P., & Dillman, D. A. (1994). How to Conduct Your Own Survey (1st ed.). Wiley.


The turnaround time for graded assignments is generally one week or less.


Each student is required to complete the class exercises that are assigned in the course. The exercises are particularly important--they allow students the opportunity to experiment with and use the tools and techniques presented in the course. The exercises will contribute 50% of the grade for the course.

Discussions/Class Participation

Class participation is expected and is essential to the course. At various points in the course, we will share with classmates the material that we have developed. Engagement in class discussions related to these materials is critical. The discussions for the class are 25% of the final grade.

Final Project

A final project is required for the course. The project involves design of an approach to analyze a community social or economic issue. The project requires a project proposal submitted for instructor feedback prior to beginning the project. The grade on the final project constitutes 25% of the course grade. There is no final exam for the course.

Missed Modules and Late Work

Students are expected to turn work in on the dates announced in the course. However, we realize that most of you are working professionals and will on occasion have to do something that will keep you from completing module work on time. If you have a conflict for work, travel, or family, please notify your instructors as soon as you can BEFORE your scheduled conflict. We are willing to work with you, but you have to work with us too! Likewise, this is a privilege and not a right—if we feel you are abusing this privilege, we have the option of not accepting your work for that module or modules.

Grading Policy

The following table is the grading criteria for the course.

Grading Criteria
Requirement Cumulative Point Value Weight
Exercises 50 50%
Discussions 22 25%
Final Project 28 25%
TOTAL: 100 100%

The following table is the grading scheme for the course.

Grading Scheme
Letter Grade Percentage
A 100% – 95%
A- < 95% – 90%
B+ < 90% – 86.7%
B < 86.7% – 83.4%
B- < 83.4% – 80%
C+ < 80% – 75%
C < 75% – 70%
D < 70% – 60%
F < 60%

Please refer to the University Grading Policy for Graduate Courses for additional information.

NOTE: If you are planning to graduate this semester, please communicate your intent to graduate to your instructor. This will alert your instructor to the need to submit your final grade in time to meet the published graduation deadlines. For more information about graduation policies and deadlines, please see "Graduation" under World Campus Student Resources.

Online Students Use of the Library

As Penn State World Campus students, you have access to many of the materials that the library offers to students. The library website has a lot to offer, but can be overwhelming. A guide has been created to serve as your introduction to important library resources, services, and important pages within the library. The Online Student Library Guide is updated regularly by the online librarian and is intended to provide a level of comfort through an introduction to help you feel comfortable navigating the library website to find valuable information for your coursework.

Technical Requirements

This course is offered online and it is assumed you possess the minimum system requirements and computing skills to participate effectively. A list of technical requirements is listed on World Campus' Penn State Technical Requirements page.

Minimum Skills

  • You should have an understanding of basic computer usage (creating folders/directories, switching between programs, formatting and backing up media, accessing the internet).
  • You must be able to conduct word processing tasks such as creating, editing, saving, and retrieving documents.
  • You must be able to use a web browser to open web pages, download files, and search the internet.
  • You must be able to use an e-mail program to send and receive messages and to attach and download documents/files.
  • You must be able to download and install programs or plug-ins from the internet.

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Students are expected to log in regularly to keep up to date with announcements, discussions, etc. The class will progress at a regular pace throughout the semester and there are specific due dates and times for assignments, etc.

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In order to receive consideration for reasonable accommodations, you must contact the appropriate disability services office at the campus where you are officially enrolled, participate in an intake interview, and provide documentation. If the documentation supports your request for reasonable accommodations, your campus' disability services office will provide you with an accommodation letter. Please share this letter with your instructors and discuss the accommodations with them as early in your courses as possible. You must follow this process for every semester that you request accommodations.

Accommodations for Military Personnel

Veterans and currently serving military personnel and/or spouses with unique circumstances (e.g., upcoming deployments, drill/duty requirements, disabilities, VA appointments, etc.) are welcome and encouraged to communicate these, in advance if possible, to the instructor in the case that special arrangements need to be made.

Use of Trade Names

Where trade names are used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement by World Campus, Outreach and Cooperative Extension, the College of Agricultural Sciences, or The Pennsylvania State University is implied.

Subject to Change Statement

Please note that this Course Syllabus is subject to change. Students are responsible for abiding by such changes.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search to start planning ahead.

Course Availability

If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search to start planning ahead.