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Research Methods for Geographers (BSc)

Module titleResearch Methods for Geographers (BSc)
Module codeGEO1315B
Academic year2018/9
Module staff

Dr Kees Jan Van Groenigen ()

Dr Alastair Graham (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Description - summary of the module content

Module description

This compulsory module will provide you with a broad introduction to research in geography and the methodological approaches that geographers use in their scholarship. The module commences with key discipline-specific skills for BSc students, culminating in a three day residential field class that aims to examine the ways in which geographers develop research questions, explore the physical and social world using empirical research and the ways in which different types of research data can be collected, analysed and interpreted. Building on the knowledge gained during this initial period, you will then receive training in key methodological approaches, including critical reading and interpretative methods using qualitative techniques, analysis of spatial datasets via Geographical Information Systems (GIS), the use of mathematical skills in geography and statistical analysis. The module is designed to provide all undergraduate Stage 1 geographers with an understanding of how geographers do research and the basis for developing skills that will be relevant to both their subsequent stages of study and in employment after graduation.

This is a compulsory and non-condonable module for the BSc Geography programmes.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module aims to provide you with an inter-disciplinary understanding of the approaches geographers take to research and research practice. Specifically, the module aims to provide you with the essential skills for undertaking rigorous investigations of the natural and social worlds. In so doing, the module equips you with underpinning research skills for critically analysing physical and social science data, develops your understanding of data collection methods, data analysis and the synthesis of research results. In particular, the module aims to explore how geographers do research and how they critically engage with the physical and social worlds. The module contributes directly to academic skills development for Stages 2 and 3 of the degree programme, alongside establishing key employability attributes for geographers.

By attending the timetabled teaching and completing the formative and summative assessments for this module, you will develop your academic and professional skills. These include developing an ability to:

  • solve problems;
  • develop your own ideas with confidence;
  • respond to novel and unfamiliar problems;
  • analyse, interpret and evaluate datasets;
  • manage structure (task management, goal setting, developing strategies);
  • manage your time effectively.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Discuss research traditions in physical and human geography
  • 2. Summarise research practice, rigour and ethics in geography
  • 3. Explain the ways in which geography and geographers approach research and the challenges of working across disciplinary boundaries
  • 4. Describe the basis for key methods used by geographers
  • 5. Use of appropriate field techniques, laboratory methods and computer software to undertake quantitative and qualitative analysis of geographical data.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 6. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 7. Describe a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 8. Outline the nature of change within natural systems and their relationship to human societies
  • 9. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 10. Describe the significance of spatial relationships as influences upon physical and human environments
  • 11. Evaluate and critically analyse a range of data from different sources

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 12. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently
  • 13. Describe how researchers identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources using appropriate computer software
  • 14. Relate learning on the module to future employability through an understanding of how key methods are utilised by employers

Syllabus plan

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module’s precise content may vary from year to year, it is envisaged that the syllabus will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • Introduction and context of research methods for geographers;
  • Discipline specific training for BSc geographers.
  • Preparation for residential field class.
  • Four day residential field class (Slapton).
  • Qualitative research in geography.
  • Mathematical skills for geographers.
  • Statistical analysis of geographical data.
  • GIS skills for geographers.
  • Applied geography panel sessions.

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 Teaching28Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching13Support sessions and laboratory work
Scheduled Learning and Teaching27Residential field class
Guided Independent Study22Completion of residential field class assessment
Guided Independent Study14Completion of GIS assessment
Guided Independent Study48Revision for summer examination


Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Field class oral feedback in group workDuring the residential field class2-12Oral

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 field class assessment452000 words or equivalent1-13Written
GIS exercise10500 words equivalent technical exercise4-5, 13Written
Examination (May/June)451 hour4-14Oral from personal tutor


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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group field class assessmentEssay1-13August Ref/Def
GIS exerciseGIS exercise4-5, 13August Ref/Def
ExaminationExamination4-14August 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. In the case of the group field class assessment, you will be required to complete a 1000 word essay on a topic related to the field class. 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 sit all referred assessments. In the case of the group field class assessment, you will be required to complete a 1000 word essay on a topic related to the field class. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%; deferred marks are not capped.


Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Bryman, A. 2008. Social Research Methods, 3rd Edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Bryman, A., and Cramer, D. 2011. Quantitative data analysis with IBM SPSS 17, 18 & 19: a guide for social scientists. Routledge, London.
  • Castree, N., Rogers, A. and Sherman, D. (eds). 2005. Questioning Geography: fundamental debates. Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Clifford, N. J., Cope, M., Gillespie, T., French, S. 2016. Key Methods in Geography, 3rd Edition. SAGE, London.
  • Clifford, N. J. and Valentine, G. 2010. Key Methods in Geography, 2nd Edition. SAGE, London.
  • Cloke, P., Cook, I, Crang, P., Goodwin, M., Painter, J., Philo, C. 2004. Practicing Human Geography. SAGE, London.
  • Crampton, J. W. 2010. Mapping: A critical introduction to cartography and GIS. Wiley, Chichester.
  • Denscombe, M. 2010. The Good Research Guide: for small-scale social research projects, 4th Edition. Open University Press, Maidenhead.
  • de Smith, M., Goodchild, M., Longley, P. 2015. Geospatial Analysis, 5th ed.Field, A. 2009. Discovering Statistics Using SPSS (and sex and drugs and rock 'n' roll), 3rd edition. SAGE, London.
  • Flowerdew, R. and Martin, D. 2005. Methods in Human Geography: a guide for students doing a research project. Pearson, Harlow.
  • Fotheringham, A.S & Rogerson, P.A. (Eds) 2009. The SAGE Handbook of Spatial Analysis. SAGE, London.
  • Gregory, D., Johnston, R., Pratt, G., Watts, M., Whatmore, S. (Eds). 2009. The Dictionary of Human Geography, 5th Edition. Wiley-Blackwell, London.
  • Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., Carver, S. 2011. An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, 4th Edition. Pearson Education Limited, Harlow.
  • Rogerson, P. A. 2010. Statistical methods for geography: a student's guide. SAGE, London.
  • Thomas, D.S.G. and Goudie, A. 2000. The Dictionary of Physical Geography, 3rd Edition. Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Wheeler, D., Shaw, G., and Barr, S., (2004), Statistical Techniques in Geographical Analysis, 3rd edition, David Fulton, London.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Module has an active ELE page

Key words search

Geography, methods, techniques

Credit value15
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


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