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School of Environment, Education and Development

Students on a field trip
BSc Geography and Geology
Benefit from a wide range of optional topics and practical trips on this combined degree.

BSc Geography and Geology

Year of entry: 2018

Course unit details:
Research Design and Overseas Fieldcourses

Unit code GEOG20072
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Geography
Available as a free choice unit? No


The Research Design and Overseas Fieldwork course gives students the opportunity to examine contemporary issues and environments first hand and have the opportunity to acquire practical training and research skills for their dissertation. Running during the second semester, it is split into three parts:

Block 1: Preparatory sessions

This first block consists of a mix of lectures and/or smaller group sessions to explore substantive and methodological issues related to themes to be covered in the field course. The sessions introduce the field course destination and support students in the design of research projects to be conducted while overseas. There are usually 5 preparatory sessions, although more may be required to cover logistical issues.

Block 2: In the field

The second block consists of a period of approximately one week in the field, during which time students will undertake their research projects, in addition to various self-organised and staff-organised activities.

Block 3: Designing dissertation research

Alongside the research skills developed for the overseas field course, you will develop a proposal for your own individual dissertation. This is an extremely important process as the dissertation forms 40 credits of your third year. We guide you through this process starting with the Dissertation Kick-Off sessions at the start of semester two, and continuing in tutorials with your dissertation adviser. 


  • To provide experience in designing and implementing research as a basis for the dissertation
  • To develop, through their application in the context of a specific place, an understanding of geographical approaches, concepts, methods and theories in human and /or physical geography
  • To encourage and support independent study and enquiring, critical thought about geographical and ‘real-world’ issues
  • To introduce a range of research skills and methods and provide an opportunity to use them as part of a team on the overseas field course
  • To develop an organised approach to the design, execution and writing up of research
  • To provide experience of being and researching in a different social and cultural environment 

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course unit, you should be able to:

  • Appreciate the key theoretical and methodological approaches used by geographers
  • Design, execute and write up a piece of independent research
  • Understand the key requirements of a successful research project
  • Demonstrate a detailed understanding of the nature of a dissertation, and the dissertation research process
  • Develop an organised, doable and stimulating dissertation proposal

Teaching and learning methods

The course unit will be delivered through a mix of staff-led and student-led lectures, small group sessions and individual tutorials.

Students will be expected to undertake reading and preparatory work for the field course before departing and to carry on this work while in ‘the field’. Sessions will draw upon a range of resources, including PowerPoint slides which will be posted to Blackboard for all sessions, links to relevant web resources, core readings and video clips. A comprehensive archive of sources and links will be compiled on Blackboard for student use.

While they all address the Intended learning Outcomes listed above, each of the field courses involves slightly different forms of research and assessment as would be expected given the diverse places in which they take place. Accordingly, each trip has its own extensive handbook. The field courses will all be departing in either the final week of Easter break or the week after the Easter break. The year meeting at the start of the first semester of your second year will support field course selection

Block three, designing the dissertation, is supported through a combination of lectures, Q and A sessions, small group seminars and individual tutorials. We guide you through this process starting with the Dissertation Kick Off sessions at the start of semester two, and continuing in tutorials with your dissertation adviser. The dissertation lectures will cover the basic demands and timelines for the dissertation along with good practice in research design. These sessions also introduce the key skills of research design and discuss them in relation to what makes a good dissertation. There will be opportunity to talk with staff about various key aspects of the dissertation, including how to choose a topic, and design and execute research successfully. The second lecture will focus on the ethical and risk implications for research and give you some ideas on appropriate topics.

In week three students will be asked to submit a form indicating their topic area and will be allocated a dissertation supervisor. They will then meet with their supervisor twice before Easter, first as a group, and secondly individually to discuss their research proposal. The proposal will be submitted after Easter and their overseas field course, and then returned with detailed comments soon after. The final meeting will take place individually with their dissertation tutor after Easter to discuss the proposal and plans to conduct research over the summer.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

During this course unit, you will be encouraged to develop the following abilities and skills:

  • The ability to think critically in order to identify and address novel and important research questions
  • The ability to work independently
  • The capacity to design a research project and select appropriate methods that are grounded in the academic literature
  • The ability to gather and analyse data in the field
  • The ability to manage time in order to meet strict deadlines
  • The  interpersonal skills required to work in a team
  • The capacity to identify key findings and present them verbally

Assessment methods

The assessment for the course will be made up of three elements corresponding to the three blocks: an individual piece of work based on a critical reading of some aspect of the field course destination, the team-based research project conducted while overseas (together comprising 75% of the overall course unit mark), and the dissertation proposal (25% of the overall course unit mark). Reflecting the different emphasis, focus, interests and learning experiences of each field course, the precise nature of the assessments will differ in each of the locations.

Feedback methods

Feedback will be provided in the following ways during this course unit:

  • During seminar discussion sessions verbal feedback will be provided on critical reading and understanding
  • Written and verbal feedback will also be given on the assessment itself
  • Verbal feedback will be provided through Q&A, discussion and interactive activities within lectures, along with discussion of video clips and web resources
  • Written feedback will be provided on the individual work that will help to provide formative direction
  • Verbal feedback will be provided through meetings with the dissertation adviser.
  • Verbal feedback will be provided through consultation hours and in seminars. 

Recommended reading

Balnaves M and Caputi P (2001) Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods: an investigate research, Sage: London

Brannen J (Ed.) (1992) Mixing Methods: qualitative and quantitative research, Ashgate: Aldershot
Clifford N and Valentine G (Eds.) (2003) Key Methods in Geography, Sage: London

Dordrecht, R. (2000) Fieldwork in Geography: perspectives, reflections and actions, London: Kluwer Academic

Flowerdew R (1997) Methods in Human Geography: a guide for students doing research projects, Harlow: London

Hoggart K, Lees L and Davies A (2002) Researching Human Geography, Arnold: London

Lenon, B.J. and Cleves, P.(2001) Fieldwork Techniques and Projects in Geography, London: Collins Educational, 2nd ed.

Walliman N (with Baiche B) (2001) Your Research Project: a step-by-step guide for the first time researcher, Sage: London

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Fieldwork 56
Lectures 16
Project supervision 2
Tutorials 2
Independent study hours
Independent study 124

Additional notes

The Overseas Field Course and Research Design course gives students the opportunity to examine contemporary issues and environments first hand and have the opportunity to acquire practical training and research skills for their dissertation.

This course is not open to Free Choice Students

Core course unit for BA/BSc Geography and BSc Geography and Geology Students

Lecture: TBC
Seminars: TBC



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