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Unit information: Research Methods in Physical Geography in 2020/21

Unit name Research Methods in Physical Geography
Unit code GEOG20011
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Dr. Williamson
Open unit status Not open
Pre-requisites

GEOG10002 Geographical History, Thought and Practices AND GEOG10003 Key Concepts in Human and Physical Geography AND GEOG10004 Introduction to Quantitative Geography.

Co-requisites

2 or more of:

GEOG20002 Floods Flows and Erosion in River Basins

GEOG20003 The Earth System

GEOG20004 Fundamentals of Modern Glaciology

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science

Description

The purpose of the course is to provide students with the tools to analyse, design and carry out scientific research in the realm of physical geography. Students will be introduced to the principles and practice of research in physical geography using a programme of lectures, field classes, laboratory and computer-based practical classes and seminars. They will then have an opportunity to put their learning into practice through the design, delivery and write-up of a group project in the style of a third-year dissertation. These projects are delivered in partnership with local environmental organisations where possible.

Students will be introduced to some of the expected limitations of research methods and will be given the opportunity to undertake rigorous evaluation/review of their own proposals, sampling design and scientific practice. Also covered are COSHH and Health and Safety issues in field and laboratory environments.

The principal aim of this unit is to provide the students with the generic and specific skills to design and carry out their dissertation successfully, and at the end of the unit students will start to develop their ideas for their final-year dissertation.

Within this remit, the unit aims are:

  • to develop the students higher-level skills in observation, measurement and reporting;
  • to provide a platform for independent research;
  • to promote best practice in the design and execution of a research project;
  • to prompt independent reflection on scientific practice, especially that adopted in Physical Geography;
  • To apply the methodological expertise gained as part of a guided research project;
  • To design and write-up a dissertation-style project;
  • To teach, monitor and assess group work through embedded peer evaluation and self-reflection of individual contributions to the team and the dynamics of team working.

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. Design and write-up an effective piece of research
  2. Employ a variety of methods for collecting and analysing geographical information
  3. Identify, generate or download, quality control, manipulate and interpret common geographical datasets and critically assess their limitations.
  4. Work safely in the field or a scientific laboratory with an awareness of standard procedures.

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Team working and collaboration
  • Numeracy and computation
  • Planning and implementing research projects
  • Problem solving

Teaching details

The unit will be taught through a blended combination of online and, if possible, in-person teaching, including

  • online resources
  • synchronous group workshops, seminars, tutorials and/or office hours
  • asynchronous individual activities and guided reading for students to work through at their own pace
  • practical and/or field work; students who either begin or continue their studies in an online mode may be required to complete laboratory practical and/or field work, or alternative activities, in person, either during the academic year 2020/21 or subsequently, in order to meet the intended learning outcomes for the unit, prepare them for subsequent units or to satisfy accreditation requirements.

Assessment Details

Formative

There will be several opportunities to practice elements of the online assessment of the methods taught in TB1.

Summative

(20%) Online in-class assessment. [ILOs 2-4]

Group research project (groups of 4-6) [ILOs 1-4]. The Group research project will comprise of:

(50%) a written report (maximum 8000 words in total),

(15%) a group presentation, and

(15%) a peer review of group work.

Reading and References

Recommended Reading:

  1. Bradbury, I. et al. (2002) Scientific Principles for Physical Geographers. Pearson Education, Harlow, England.
  2. Cheeseman, R.V. and Wilson, A. L. (1978) Manual of Analytical Quality for the Water Industry. Water Research Centre Technical report, TB66
  3. Clifford, N., and Valentine, G. (2004) Key Methods in Geography. Sage Publication.
  4. Montieth, J.L., and Unsworth, M.H. (1990), Principles of Environmental Physics, 2nd ed., Edward Arnold,. New York
  5. Parsons, T., and Knight. P.G. (2001) How To Do Your Dissertation in Geography and Related Disciplines. Nelson Thornes.
  6. Ritchie, W, Wood, M, Wright, R. & Tait, D (1988) Surveying and Mapping for Field Scientists. Longman.

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