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Research Methods in Geography, Environment and Society

Module titleResearch Methods in Geography, Environment and Society
Module codeGEO2448
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Jo Browse (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module will introduce the conceptual, analytical and research skills necessary for you to carry out independent research work, with direct applicability to project work on the allied field course module as well as through the rest of your degree, notably your final year fieldtrip and dissertation, as well as in future workplaces. You will be introduced to a range of techniques and methods used in data collection as well as broader issues relevant to the successful execution of independent research, including research design, survey and sampling, data analysis, interpretation of information, and presentation. This module is compulsory for students on the BA/BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Sciences and BA Human Sciences programmes. During the module you will not only be given the opportunity to learn new skills but will be encouraged and helped to develop ideas and plans for your dissertation.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module prepares you to complete research projects within your degree programme, especially on the allied Isles of Scilly Field Course module and in your Dissertation. It aims to introduce you to a range of methodologies employed in research alongside the wider decision making processes that all researchers have to make, so that you feel confident about undertaking independent research in a rigorous and critical manner. Independent geographical research constitutes a central element in the degree programme in Geography and is a critical skill in employability.

On completion of this module you will have gained a number of key employability skills that are embedded in the course. These skills range from teamwork, to verbal and written communication, initiative and self-motivation, drive, planning and organisation, flexibility, and time-management. In particular, the module will:

  • improve your ability to work with confidence and independence
  • help you to express your ideas clearly and assuredly in speech and text
  • teach you to gather information systematically and analyse information using appropriate methods
  • encourage you to act on initiative, identify opportunities and proactively put ideas and solutions forward
  • encourage you to get things done and make things happen by asking you to look for better ways of working
  • support you to be proficient in planning activities and carrying them out effectively
  • help you to be adaptive to changing situations and environments
  • develop your proficiency¬†in time-management, prioritising tasks and able to work to deadlines.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Describe a range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting, analysing and presenting geographical information and apply these with limited guidance
  • 2. Identify/formulate and evaluate questions or problems, including those involving data collected in the field
  • 3. Identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving with guidance, and be able to apply new ideas to new situations
  • 4. Evaluate the issues involved in applying research design skills within the specific context of field-based, desk-based, archive-based and laboratory-based research
  • 5. Apply, interpret and use with limited guidance quantitative and qualitative information, including that gathered in the field

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 7. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in geography, environmental sciences and or human sciences
  • 8. With some guidance, deploy established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within geography, environmental sciences and or human sciences
  • 9. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of in geography, environmental sciences and or human sciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 10. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 11. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats and means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 12. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 13. Use C&IT effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate geographical information
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 15. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 16. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

  • Module introduction
  • Research design
  • Questionnaires and interviews
  • Ethnographic and experimental methods
  • Visual and archive methods
  • Policy analysis
  • Data handling and quantitative analysis
  • Geomorphology methods
  • Biogeography methods
  • Dissertation planning and assessment workshop

Learning and teaching

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching25Lectures and practical sessions
Guided Independent Study125Independent reading and preparation for practicals and assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical exercises linked to methods training sessionsDemonstration of skills attainment through discussion and/or completion of exercises in class1-5, 7-15Oral, in class

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Information-handling exercises501500 wordsAllComment sheet
Research proposal501500 wordsAllComment sheet


Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Information-handling exercisesInformation-handling exercisesAllAugust Ref/Def
Research proposalResearch proposalAllAugust Ref/Def

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to complete a further research proposal. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Clifford, N., French, S and Valentine, G. (ed.) 2010 Key Methods in Geography, Sage Publications.
  • Gomez, B. and Jones, J. P. (ed.) 2010 Research methods in geography: A critical introduction, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Hay I. (ed.) 2010 Qualitative research methods in human geography, Oxford University Press.
  • Harris, R. and Jarvis, C. 2011 Statistics in geography and environmental science, Pearson Education Limited.
  • Jones, A. 2000 Practical skills in Environmental Science, Prentice Hall.
  • Mangel, M. 2006. The Theoretical Biologist's Toolbox: Quantitative Methods for Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Cambridge University Press.
  • Matthews, H.M. and Foster, I.D. (1986) Fieldwork exercises in human and physical geography. Arnold.
  • Parsons, T. and Knight, P.G. (1995) How to do your dissertation in geography and related disciplines. Chapman and Hall.
  • Robinson, G.M. 1998, Methods and techniques in human geography. Wiley.
  • Rogers, A., Viles, H. and Goudie, A. (1992) The student’s companion to Geography. Blackwell.
  • Rogerson, P.A. (2001) Statistical methods for Geography. Sage Publications.
  • Russell, B. H. 2011. Research methods in anthropology, AltaMira Press
  • Wheeler, D., Shaw, G. and Barr, S. 2013 Statistical techniques in geographical analysis, David Fulton Publishers. (and earlier editions)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Physical geography, human geography, human sciences, environmental science, research skills, research design, research methods, data analysis and interpretation

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

GEO2447 Isles of Scilly Field Course

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date