PhD in Regional Planning

Your Courses: Theory

Theory  |   Methods  |   Area of Specialization


Students enter the PhD program in Regional Planning with widely varied backgrounds in planning, social science, and environmental science theories. Some have master’s degrees in planning or another profession; others in biology, economics, geography, or another discipline. Only one theory course is required of all students, UP 580 Advanced Planning Theory. Your advisor and the PhD program director are responsible for providing guidance to help you select additional theory courses, including ones specific to your area of specialization.

Theory courses give you helpful lenses for planning scholarship on how human settlements, regional systems, and planning and public policy work. They also enable you to participate in fruitful scholarly conversations within and across disciplines. Although not required to do so, you should consider building at least master’s level competency in the core theories of at least one discipline. Also seek out theory courses that focus directly on the subject of your specialization. They might be sub-fields of disciplines, such as environmental economics, or they might draw on several disciplines, such as community studies theory.

As you plan your program of study with your advisor and other professors, you might want to keep in mind a requirement being met by students in another leading doctoral program: “demonstrate competence in a sub-field of another academic department at the level of performance expected of PhD students in that department. This may mean completing a two or three-course sequence in a designated sub-field (e.g. organizational behavior as a subfield of political science), completing a doctoral field examination in the department, or writing a paper or bibliographic review of literature.”

Listed below are entry level graduate theory courses in several social science disciplines and some examples of specialization theory courses that have served recent doctoral students well.


Planning Theory

UP 501: Planning History & Theory

4 hours

Offers students a survey of classic and contemporary theories of planning. Students will gain a deeper appreciation for the profession's roots as well as be introduced to some of "the theoretical tools" used to analyze planning. An important aspect of the course is intellectual dialogue through critical reading, informed discussion and writing assignments. Prerequisite: Graduate standing in Urban Planning or consent of instructor.

UP 580: Advanced Planning Theory

4 hours

Recent advances in planning, policy-making and decision-making theories as they relate to the efficient use of land and to the complex interrelationships among the major uses of land, i.e., housing, transportation, agriculture; specific applications vary annually, reflecting the students' dissertation research topics. Prerequisite: UP 501 or consent of instructor.

Economic Theory

ACE 500: Applied Economic Theory

4 hours

Provides an understanding of theory of the firm, consumer economics and various market models necessary to conduct applied professional economic research with special emphasis on applications relevant to agricultural, consumer, development, and resource economics. Multivariate calculus and optimization methods are used.

ECON 500: General Microeconomic Theory

4 hours

Emphasizes microeconomic theory; principal topics include a review of value and distribution theory, the theory of choice by households and firms, general microeconomic theory, and theoretical developments of current interest. Students may not receive credit for both ECON 500 and ECON 567. Graduate credit for both ECON 302 and ECON 500 is given only upon recommendation of the student's adviser and approval by the Department of Economics. Prerequisite: ECON 102 or equivalent.

Political Theory

PS 571: History of Pol Theories I

4 hours

Reading, analysis and discussion of the leading political thinkers from the Greeks to the middle of the seventeenth century.

PS 572: History of Pol Theories II

4 hours

Reading, analysis and discussion of the leading political thinkers from the middle of the seventeenth century to the present.

Sociological Theory

SOC 500: Classical Sociological Theory

4 hours

Analysis of major classical sociological theorists of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, stressing the social, historical, and philosophic foundations of sociological theory; primary emphasis on Marx, Durkheim, and Weber. Prerequisite: SOC 200 or equivalent.

SOC 501: Contemp Sociological Theory

4 hours

Major theorists and schools of thought since World War I with emphasis on the contemporary period; includes functionalism, exchange theory, conflict theory, symbolic interaction, and phenomenology. Prerequisite: SOC 500 or equivalent.

Specialization Theory

UP 517/HCD 531/SOC 574: Community Studies Theory

4 hours

Covers main currents of thought and paradigms in community studies and development. Focuses on theories of community definition and functioning, building and sustaining community, and the impact of societal change on community processes. Same as SOC 574 and UP 517.

UP 552/ACE 552: Regional Development Theory

4 hours

Covers fundamental concepts and theories of regional economic development including export base, neoclassical and endogenous growth, regional convergence, core-periphery, interregional trade, product cycle, industrial districts, entrepreneurship, and regional innovation systems theories. Also discusses policy and planning frameworks for applying regional theory to spatial development problems. Same as ACE 552. Prerequisite: UP 445 and UP 407, or consent of instructor.

BADM 508: Organizational Behavior

2 or 4 hrs

Develops and integrates fundamental behavioral concepts and theory having administrative applications; initially focuses on the individual decision maker and ultimately includes interpersonal, organizational, and social structures and influences; and develops strategies and methods of research on behavioral applications in business.

CEE 515: Traffic Flow Theory

4 hours

Fundamentals of traffic flow, traffic flow characteristics, statistical distributions of traffic flow parameter, traffic stream models, car following models, continuum follow models, shock wave analysis, queuing analysis, traffic flow models for intersections, network flow models and control, traffic simulation. Prerequisite: CEE 416 and knowledge of probability and statistics.

ECON 516/ACE 516/ENVS 511: Environmental Economics

4 hours

Examines both theory and policy applications in the environmental area; selectively reviews the literature to provide a framework for understanding the relevant economic relationships and the criteria appropriate for policy assessment; emphasizes the characteristics of major environmental problems and policy choices; and considers the valuation of environmental amenities and the conflict between environmental quality and growth. Same as ACE 516 and ENVS 511. Prerequisite: ECON 302 or consent of instructor.

GEOG 520: Political Ecology

3 hours

Political ecology integrates social and biophysical processes in the study of nature-society relations. Examination of the conceptual origins of the field of political ecology and identification of influential bodies of research and promising research directions. Readings focus on recent advances, debates, and the ongoing evolution of political ecology as an integrative approach to Geography and environment-development studies. May be repeated to a maximum of 6 graduate hours. Prerequisite: One of the following courses, or consent of the instructor: GEOG 410, GEOG 466, SOC 447, HIST 460, or equivalent.

GWS 570/SOC 520: Feminist Research Soc Sci

4 hours

Interdisciplinary feminist theory and research course with emphasis on the social sciences. Examines theoretical, methodological, and empirical research on sex, gender, and women in the social sciences. Same as SOC 520. Prerequisite: Undergraduate statistics; at least one graduate-level social science course or consent of instructor. A graduate-level course in social science research methods is strongly recommended.

LAW 692: Critical Race Theory

3 hours

This seminar will introduce students to the historical development and basic theoretical principles of Critical Race Theory, an intellectual movement in critical scholarship that (1) rejects the possibility of race-neutral practices and institutions; and (2) is committed to the possibility of an affirmative program for racial emancipation. Students will read a variety of writings by critical race theorists and their critics; a paper will be required.