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Methodologies for Tackling Wicked Problems


Course Objectives

The main aim of this course is to instill critical thinking to understand and solve wicked problems via qualitative methods.

By the end of the course students will be able to:

  • Recognize a wicked problem(s) on which qualitative research method can be applied.
  • Unpack the complexity of a wicked problem by identifying causal patterns or variation that can provide meaningful analytical insights using qualitative research.
  • Recognize the importance of understanding the local context when tackling a wicked problem.

Course Description

World challenges also known as “wicked problems” are often complex and ambiguous, which is why there is a growing recognition and need for qualitative research. In light of pressing world issues, we will demystify qualitative research and provide procedural clarity on conducting qualitative research. Furthermore, we will also discuss how qualitative research can be used in the implementation and evaluation of development programs.

Learning Methods

Since the course will revolve around discussion-based classes and guest lectures, students are expected to come prepared with the mandatory readings. Furthermore, to gain an understanding of how qualitative research is done in practice, students will be expected to apply learnings of the discussion to their group projects.
Student participation is not mandatory.

Examination Information

The individual performance will be evaluated through a final, written exam (70%). The performance as a team member (30%) will be assessed through weekly group work on the blog (this includes (a) a final project, and (b) comments on other groups’ work on the blog).

Students need a pass-mark in both types of performance evaluations (i.e. a mark of at least six out of ten in both individual and team member performance).

Required materials

  • Skovdal, M., & Cornish, F. (2015). Qualitative Research for Development. Rugby: Practical Action


Gibbert M.

Course director

Langebraun N.