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Research Design in the Field

Module titleResearch Design in the Field
Module codeGEOM419
Academic year2022/3
Module staff

Dr Katie Orchel (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This module explores the practicalities of research design and methodology in relation to questions of environmental change and sustainability facing coastal communities. 

It provides you with the knowledge and practical skills required for independent project design and development with a particular focus on developing skills to support your Masters Dissertation. Individual problem identification and innovative solution generation is encouraged, whilst identifying key stakeholders in the knowledge exchange process.

No pre-requisites or specialist knowledge are required to undertake this module, which is well suited to interdisciplinary learning. The module will be delivered through a residential field course, with expert-led small group learning, group work and personal study. Through fieldwork you will be prompted to consider the challenges of researching sustainability dilemmas facing UK coastal communities.

Module aims - intentions of the module

By undertaking this module you will develop the knowledge and skills required to identify problem-focused research challenges through site-specific research in coastal communities, and to design and develop an independent research project.  This will include pertinent elements of project design methodology and project management as well as the iterative knowledge exchange process. The skills you gain from fieldwork and teamwork in an unfamiliar and distinctive environment will stand you in good stead for a wide range of careers in the environmental sustainability sector.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate the professional ability to derive a robust, meaningful and focused research question, of relevance to your own discipline/practice and to the field location.
  • 2. Demonstrate a practical and applied understanding of the design, methodology and project management appropriate to the proposed project and justify chosen approach.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 3. Develop a coherent and persuasive case for a project proposal through the systematic, critical evaluation and synthesis of relevant evidence from a range of sources.
  • 4. Develop a transdisciplinary approach to research project design.
  • 5. Identify a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Apply geographical/sustainability concepts in different situations.
  • 7. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments.

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Demonstrate an understanding of the process of knowledge exchange within your own discipline/practice and identify the potential value of the project to end users
  • 9. Demonstrate a self-reflective and empathetic approach to group and self in the learning process.
  • 10. Develop skills in communication with a variety of audiences – academic, policy, community
  • 11. Work as a participant and leader of a group and contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module's precise content may vary from year to year, an example of an potential content is as follows:

  • Question generation and problem identification
  • Systematic evaluation and needs assessment (stakeholder analysis)
  • Investigative methodologies (transdisciplinary approaches)
  • Project and resource management (project planning: outputs, budgets, resources, timescales, managing risks)
  • Knowledge exchange (communicating and making impact)
  • How to write a project proposal/grant application
  • Presentation skills

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 Teaching activities34Preparatory seminars / discussions
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities20Field-based tutoring from members of the Centre Geography and Environmental Science and guest speakers on local sustainability challenges.
Guided independent study126Additional reading, independent and group research/reflection in the field, and research and preparation for the module assessments.


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Participation in discussion groups and seminar sessionsOngoing throughout the module AllOral
Written outline of project proposal1 page1-8, 11Written

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
Group presentation2015 minutesAllOral and Written
Field journal and Critical reflection803000 words1-8, 11Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group presentationIndividual presentation 10 minutes1-8, 11Referral/Deferral period
Field journal and Critical reflectionProject report 3000 words1-8, 11Referral/Deferral period

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 50%) you will be required to redo the relevant assessment. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Leavy, P. (2011) Essentials of Transdisciplinary Research: Using Problem Centred Methodologies (Qualitative Essentials). London: Routledge
  • O'leary, Z. (2017). The essential guide to doing your research project. Sage.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Project Design, Research Design, Project Management, Stakeholder Analysis, Science Communication, Sustainable Development,  Critical reflection

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date