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Unit information: Qualitative Research Methods in Human Geography in 2021/22

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,

GEOG20015 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 methodological principles and the practice of 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. The importance of marrying philosophy to practice is emphasized with a focus on how this influences the use of methods employed in conducting empirical research. Significantly, the unit’s aim is to expand the range of students’ methodological experience and competence in preparation for the mandatory Year 2 field-based unit and their dissertation in the final year. The unit addresses the methodological principles relevant to sampling, causation, interpretation, generalisation, structural analysis and conceptual abstraction. In the second half of the unit, various core methods are introduced including, for example, semi-structured interviewing, focus-groups and other forms of community and group discussion, archival research, visual methods, and participatory research methods.


  • To introduce students to the different philosophical approaches to the use of qualitative research methods
  • To familiarise students with the methodological issues underpinning a qualitative approach to research
  • To introduce students to key qualitative methods
  • To raise students’ awareness that different methods produce different kinds of data suited to different questions and contexts
  • To instruct students in the importance of linking theory with practice
  • To prepare students to undertake field tasks using qualitative methods

Intended learning outcomes

On completion of this Unit students should be able to:

  1. Understand the methodological principles underpinning the application of qualitative research methods in human geography;
  2. Be cognizant of the ethical issues associated with undertaking qualitative research;
  3. Select qualitative research methods appropriate to the task at hand;
  4. Undertake research using qualitative methods;
  5. Critically evaluate the data generated using qualitative research methods; and
  6. Apply such data in geographical tasks

The following transferable skills are developed in this Unit:

  • Written and verbal communication
  • Survey and interview skills
  • Analytical skills
  • Planning and design of geographical research

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


Tutorial-based assignments and oral reports


(50%) 2,500-word essay on the methodological principles of qualitative research methods [ILOs 1 and 2]

(50%) 2,500-word written report assessing the use of two selected qualitative research methods [ILOs 2, 3, 4 and 5]


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. GEOG20012).