SOAS University of London

Department of Development Studies

Introduction to Development Practice

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

This module provides an introduction to development practice by examining some of the key tools, techniques and approaches used by international development practitioners. It also explores some of the challenges and constraints in using those tools and approaches, and the contested theories and debates underpinning development practice in the field. Using the DFID project cycle tools manual as its guide, the module will give students an introduction into a range of tools used as part of the project cycle, looking at how they are used, the challenges in using them, and the critiques that have emerged to question their suitability and application in practice. The module covers the range of the project cycle, from looking at project planning tools, ways to engage with communities and individuals, monitoring and evaluation, and final reporting of the project. It also considers issues around advocacy and building partnerships for change. Students are encouraged to develop their own interests within the module, and to explore the implications of policy and practice in particular countries, by particular agencies, or in specific sectors.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  • An understanding of how to use a number of development tools, frameworks and approaches, and a critical understanding of their strengths and weaknesses;
  • A critical understanding of academic debates on development practice, and their significance in relation to actual practice;
  • A critical understanding of the various elements involved in the project cycle;
  • An ability to construct an argument in a deeper examination of a topic related to development practice


Teaching will take the form of a two-hour lecture and a one-hour tutorial each week.

Scope and syllabus

The module will use the DFID project cycle tools manual as its guide. Students will be introduced through this to a range of tools and practice linked to the project cycle, as well as academic and theoretical debates on their use and suitability. In particular the module will examine:

  • Overview of the project cycle
  • Logframes
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Risk management
  • Participatory methods
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Advocacy, influencing and negotiation
  • Conflict reduction
  • Organisations, organisational power and knowledge
  • Proposal and report writing

Method of assessment

100% Coursework. Each student will be required to submit a log frame of no more than 2000 words worth 30% of the overall grade and a project proposal of no more than 3000 words worth 70% of the overall grade. 

Suggested reading

  • DFID (2003), Tools for Development: A Handbook for Those Engaged in Development Activity
  • World Bank (2003), Social Analysis Sourcebook
  • World Bank (2007), Tools for Institutional, Political and Social Analysis of Policy Reform: A Sourcebook for Development Practitioners:
  • D. Eade and S. Williams Oxfam Handbook of Development and Relief, Volumes 1, 2 & 3, Oxfam UK/Ireland 1995.
  • L. Gosling with M. Edwards  Toolkits: A Practical Guide to Assessment, Monitoring, Review and Evaluation, Development Manual 5, Save the Children Fund, London 1995.
  • U Kothari & M. Minogue (eds) Development Theory and Practice Palgrave, London, UK, 2002
  • A.Thomas, J. Chataway and M. Wuyts 1998  Finding Out Fast: Investigative Skills for Policy and Development , Sage Publications and Open University, London, UK, 1998.
  • D. Mosse Cultivating Development. An Ethnography of Aid Policy and Practice Pluto, London, 2005
  • L. Gosling with M. Edwards  Toolkits: A Practical Guide to Assessment, Monitoring, Review and Evaluation, Development Manual 5, Save the Children Fund, London 1995.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules