Research strategies in landscape architecture: Mapping the terrain

Simon Swaffield, M. Elen Deming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


New knowledge in landscape architecture is expressed through a synthetic mix of theories drawn from the arts and humanities, biophysical sciences and social sciences, and applied to a reflective, eidetic, and pragmatic blend of practices. Normative categories of research design (case studies, correlation and experiment) are insufficient to describe many types of research work that is conducted and published in our field. Drawing upon a selective review of published research in leading English-language journals of the discipline, an expanded classification scheme of operational research strategies in landscape architecture is proposed, comprising nine categories. The logic of the classification is based upon two dimensions or axes: the relationship of the research to theory (induction, abduction, deduction), and epistemological assumptions (objective, constructive, subjective). In this article the classification is explained using a selection of published cases to illustrate the potentials within the nine research strategies. The descriptions are highly condensed but refer to articles in widely sourced journals. The results of interviews with key informants (e.g., editors and advisory board members) suggest implications for research quality evaluation, and some consequences for teaching of research in postgraduate programmes are also discussed. It is argued that a map of well-established strategies for investigation, combined with greater transparency of evaluation, should encourage new researchers to adopt and apply those strategies best suited to their particular capacities, interests and needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)34-45
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Landscape Architecture
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011


  • Design research
  • Graduate education
  • Landscape architecture
  • Research methodology
  • Research strategies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development


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