Investigating Social and Spatial Environments

Module titleInvestigating Social and Spatial Environments
Module codeGEO1407B
Academic year2015/6
Module staff

Dr James Ryan (Convenor)

Dr James Ryan (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

How do geographers go about investigating the complex relationships between human society and the environment, between people and place? In this module you will have the opportunity to consider some of the different ways in which geographers (including you!) undertake research and how the knowledge that results is shaped by all kinds of things, from the research questions we ask, to the sources we use and the methods of data gathering, analysis and interpretation that we employ. While the emphasis of this module is human geographical and ‘qualitative’ research, the wider issues that you will consider are of great significance to all researchers. Whether you are interested in physical geography or human geography – or both – you need to have a critical awareness of how and why you are making that knowledge. This module also uniquely involves lots of practical, group and collaborative work and you will find it particularly useful for developing you skills in team working, practical skills and critical thinking. Together with the knowledge of how society shapes its understanding of geography and the environment, these skills will be highly useful to you in your future in the workplace and as a global citizen.

You do not need specialist prior knowledge, skills or experience to do this module. Nor are there pre-requisite or co-requisite modules. This module is suitable for non-specialist as well as specialist students, and is particularly recommended for interdisciplinary pathways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

This module will provide you with an introduction to human geographers’ investigations of people and their ‘qualitative’ relations to place. It outlines the sorts of research questions human geographers have asked, the methods they can use to explore them, the sources available, and the ways they have designed and organised their studies. The module is also designed to provide you with practical experience of exercises.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Review the basic concepts and principles associated with the investigation of qualitative human geography
  • 2. Describe the diversity of sources utilised in producing geographical knowledge
  • 3. Explain and make use of relevant qualitative methods
  • 4. Assess, with guidance, the reciprocal relationships between people and place
  • 5. Safely and effectively conduct human geographical research in a fieldwork environment

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

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

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 11. Develop, with guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with sound conclusions
  • 12. Communicate ideas, principles and theories using a variety of formats in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Collect and interpret appropriate data and undertake straightforward research tasks with guidance
  • 14. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills identified by others
  • 15. Reflect 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

1. Introduction: Social and Spatial Environments

2. Official sources

3. Non-official sources

4. Observing people

5. Imaginative sources / Fieldtrip to Eden Project

6. Talking to people

7. Group presentations

8. Walking and looking

9. Learning from things

10. Assessment surgery and guidance on reflective writing

11. Course conclusions

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 Teaching11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Practical classes – work in groups on assigned tasks with staff guidance
Scheduled Learning and Teaching7Guided fieldclass to the Eden Project
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Online seminars
Guided Independent Study110Additional research, reading and preparation for module assessments


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Team building task30 minutes9-16Oral

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
Contribution to group wiki20n/a1-14, 16Written
Group presentation3010 minutes1-14, 16Written
Essay501500 words1-13Written


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Contribution to group wikiNot applicable Not applicable Not applicable
Group presentationNot applicable Not applicable Not applicable
EssayEssay1-15August Assessment 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 group presentation and contribution to group wiki assessments are not deferrable because of their practical nature and the requirement to work in a group. 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 essay. 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

Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds) (2006) Approaches to Human Geography, London, Sage.

Anderson, J. (2010) Understanding Cultural Geography: Places and Traces, London, Routledge.

Cloke, P., Cook, I., Crang, P., Goodwin, M., Painter, J., and Philo, P. (2004) Practising Human Geography

(London, Sage).

DeLyser, D. et al (eds)(2010) The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Geography, London, Sage.

Holloway, L. and Hubbard, L. (2001) People and Place: The Extraordinary Geographies of Everyday Life.

Harlow, Prentice Hall.

Kitchin, R. and Tate, N. (2000) Conducting Research into Human Geography, Harlow, Prentice Hall.

Rogers, A., Viles, H. and Goudie, A. (2003) The Students Companion to Geography (2nd Edition), (Oxford,


Aitken, S. and Valentine, G. (eds) (2006) Approaches to Human Geography, London, Sage.

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Human geography, knowledge, methods, research, sources, qualitative

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


Available as distance learning?


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