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Study information

Fieldwork in Physical Geography

Module titleFieldwork in Physical Geography
Module codeGEO1312
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Kees Jan Van Groenigen (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This compulsory module will provide you with a broad introduction to fieldwork in geography and the methodological approaches that physical 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 learn how to report your research findings and how to place your research in a wider societal context. The module places an emphasis on group work to support students in learning. It is designed to provide all undergraduate Stage 1 physical geographers with an understanding of how geographers do research and forms a 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. It is not available to students on Flexible Combined Honours 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 world. In so doing, the module equips you with underpinning research skills for critically analysing physical data, develops your understanding of data collection methods, data analysis and the synthesis of research results. The module contributes directly to academic skills development for the second and final stages 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 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 geography
  • 2. Summarise research practice, rigour and ethics in geography
  • 3. Describe the basis for key methods used by geographers
  • 4. Use of appropriate field techniques and laboratory methods to undertake quantitative analysis of geographical data

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Illustrate and discuss the contested and provisional nature of knowledge and understanding
  • 6. Describe a diverse range of approaches to the generation of knowledge and understanding
  • 7. Outline the nature of change within natural systems and their relationship to human societies
  • 8. Discuss reciprocal relationships between physical and human environments
  • 9. 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...

  • 10. Communicate ideas, principles and theories effectively and fluently
  • 11. Describe how researchers identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources

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 field-based research methods for geographers;
  • Discipline specific training for BSc geographers;
  • Preparation for a residential field class.
  • Three-day residential field class (Slapton);
  • Approaches to thinking critically about environmental processes;
  • Synthesising field-based findings for scientific report writing.
  • Reporting and interpreting geographical data.

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 Teaching5Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching18Support sessions and laboratory work
Scheduled Learning and Teaching27Residential field class
Guided Independent Study50Completion of field class report
Guided Independent Study50Completion of group poster

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Field class oral feedback in group workDuring the residential field class2-11Oral

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 poster40800 words1-11Written
Group field report601200 words or equivalent1-11Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Group poster10-minute powerpoint presentation on an environmental issue relevant to the Slapton area1-11August Ref/Def
Group field reportEssay 1-11August 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 report, you will be required to complete a 1000-word essay on a topic related to the field class. In the case of the group poster, you will be required to prepare a 10-minute powerpoint presentation on an environmental issue relevant to the Slapton area. 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%; deferred marks are not capped.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Key words search

Geography, methods, techniques

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

GEO1316 Concepts in Geography and either GEO1311 Study Skills for Physical Geographers or LIB1105 Being Human in the Modern World

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date