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Study information

Ideas in Geography

Module titleIdeas in Geography
Module codeGEO2311
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Professor Clive Barnett (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module focuses on the role of social theory in the development of research agendas in contemporary human geography. It provides a framework for understanding the different uses of concepts, theories and philosophical ideas in human geography, including their role in defining problems, guiding the selection of methodological approaches, explaining and interpreting empirical evidence, and shaping understandings of the relevance of research. The module addresses a range of approaches, including contemporary debates in cultural theory, development studies, feminist theory, political economy, poststructuralism, and urban studies. It considers the place of key spatial concepts in human geography and other social science fields. The module assessment strategy is designed to enable you to select and develop a focussed engagement with topics and approaches of interest to you.

This is a compulsory module for second year BA Geography programmes.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aim of this module is to give you a thorough understanding of the role of theoretical debates in shaping social science and humanities research, and of the contribution of human geography to the social sciences and humanities. It will provide you with an understanding of how different approaches to social science and humanities research deploy particular geographical imaginations and spatial concepts. It outlines a framework for identifying the different ways in which concepts can be used to shape empirical investigations, explain and interpret evidence, and shape strategies of engagement and relevance. And it provides you with the skills of selecting and developing a detailed understanding of particular approaches.

The module seeks to develop the following graduate attributes:

  • Independent working through summative and formative reading and writing assessments.
  • Articulating concepts and evidence in order to develop reasoned arguments through written assessments.

The topics taught on this module draw on the research expertise of module staff.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe key theoretical and philosophical debates in contemporary human geography
  • 2. Describe the role of concepts and theories in shaping empirical inquiry
  • 3. Describe the role of concepts and theories in explaining and interpreting evidence
  • 4. Describe the relevance of different theoretical traditions

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Illustrate the contested and provisional nature of geographical knowledge
  • 6. Identify a range of approaches to the generation, analysis, and application of geographical knowledge
  • 7. Identify and investigate selected issues in human geography research

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 8. Develop a sustained and reasoned argument
  • 9. Identify, acquire, analyse and synthesise information from a range of sources
  • 10. Work independently to achieve consistent, proficient and sustained attainment
  • 11. Work as a participant and leader of a group and contribute effectively to the achievement of objectives

Syllabus plan

Part 1: The Uses of Theory in Human Geography, including Workshop 1

  • Making things visible
  • Making sense of things
  • Making a difference

Part 2: Doing Things with Theory, including Workshop 2

  • Approaches in Contemporary Human Geography

Part 3: Practicing Theory, including Workshop 3

  • The social lives of theory

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 Teaching16Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching3Essay discussion workshops
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Group tutorials
Guided Independent Study129Additional reading, research and preparation for the module assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class discussion of module framework1 x 1 hour sessionAllOral and written
In-class discussion of assessment plans2 x 1 hour sessionsAllOral and written

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
Essay1003000 words1-10Written

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10August 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. 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 submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Gregory, D. et al (2005). The Dictionary of Human Geography (5th Edition) Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Aitken, S & Valentine, G (2014) Approaches to Human Geography, (2nd Edition), London, Sage.
  • Hubbard, P., Kitchen, R., and Valentine, G. (eds.) (2008). Key Texts in Human Geography. London: Sage.
  • Hubbard, P. and Kitchen, R. (eds.). (2011). Key Thinkers on Space and Place (2nd Edition). London: Sage.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Social theory, human geography, space, spatiality, place

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date