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Unit information: Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography in 2020/21

Unit name Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography
Unit code GEOG20012
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 4 (weeks 1-24)
Unit director Professor. Crankshaw
Open unit status Not open

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


2 or more of:

GEOG20005 State, Economy and Society in Geographical Perspective,

GEOG20006 More-than-Human Geographies: Animal Geographies & Cultures of Nature,

GEOG25110 Philosophy Social Theory and Geography,

Geographies of Nature and the Environment

School/department School of Geographical Sciences
Faculty Faculty of Science


This course is designed to develop an understanding of the practicalities of using qualitative methods in geographical research. It builds on the philosophical questions about the nature of geographical knowledge grounding this within the historical and intellectual context of particular theoretical approaches to qualitative research carried out by human geographers over the last 40 years. The importance of marrying theory to practice is emphasized with a focus on how this shapes the choice of methods employed in conducting empirical research. Significantly, its aim is to expand the range of methodological experience and competence in preparation for framing and conducting a group research project in TB2 and an individual dissertation in their final year.


  • To familiarise students with the methodological issues underpinning a qualitative approach to doing research
  • To enable students to gain experience of using different qualitative methods through practice
  • To give students the awareness that their methodological decisions shape the way they use different methods and that this in turn produces different kinds of data
  • To instruct students in the importance of linking theory with practice.
  • 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. Understand the theoretical and practical issues underpinning the application of qualitative research methods in human geography;
  2. Conduct, and critically evaluate the appropriate use of, a range of qualitative methods;
  3. Design and write up a qualitative research project in human geography.

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Team working and collaboration
  • Problem solving
  • Lateral and strategic thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Planning, design and implementing research projects

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

Assessment Details


In preparation for the first meeting with the supervisor of their group research project, students will write and submit (individually) a 500-word summary of the methods that they think are appropriate for the project they are about to undertake.


(20%) Online in-class assessment. [ILOs 1-2]

Group research project (groups of 4-6) [ILOs 1-3]. 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. Eyles, J. & Smith, D.M. (eds) (1988) Qualitative Methods in Human Geography, (Cambridge: Policy Press)
  2. Flowerdew, R. and Martin, D. (eds) (1997) Methods in Human Geography: A guide for students doing a research project (London: Longman)
  3. Limb, M. & Dwyer, C. (2001) Qualitative Methodologies for Geographers: issues and debates, (London: Arnold).
  4. Kitchen, R. & Tate, N.J. (2000) Conducting Research into Human Geography: Theory, Methodology and Practice, (London: Prentice Hall)
  5. Seale, C. (ed) (1998) Researching Society and Culture, (London: Sage Publications)
  6. Silverman, D. (ed) (1997) Qualitative Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, (London: Sage Publications)