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Study information

BSc Dissertation

Module titleBSc Dissertation
Module codeGEO3321
Academic year2019/0
Module staff

Dr Ewan Woodley (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module offers you the opportunity to undertake your own independent and original piece of research and enable you to display your skills in tackling specific geographical issues in some depth. The essence of the work is that you are able to demonstrate your ability to undertake your own independent and original piece of research. The dissertation must be independent and original in all phases including design, data collection, data processing and analysis and data interpretation and project write-up.

GEO3321 is a core module which covers the execution and completion of a 45-credit dissertation in the BSc programme. It can be taken as an alternative to the 30-credit version (GEO3322).

Module aims - intentions of the module

The aims of the module are for you to develop:

  • a knowledge of a specific geographical topic,
  • an understanding of the challenges of empirical geographical research, and the ability to deal with
  • practical research problems (e.g. collecting, manipulating and analysing data),
  • skills in designing a project and linking its subject-matter to other bodies of geographical knowledge,
  • skills in dealing with the complex inter-relationships of real-world processes,
  • transferable skills in inter-personal communication, data collection and analysis, report writing, and effective time management.

By attending the timetabled sessions and completing the formatively and summatively assessed coursework in this module, you will develop your academic and professional skills. These include developing an ability to

  • solve problems,
  • develop your own research ideas with confidence,
  • respond to novel and unfamiliar research problems,
  • manage structure (task management, goal setting, developing strategies),
  • manage your time effectively,
  • learn how to write in a critical and evaluative manner, and
  • work independently in an effective manner. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Explain in depth the nature of your chosen research problem and its relevance to the field(s) of study and to the relevant published literature
  • 2. Identify, formulate, analyse and resolve research questions/problems appropriately, judge critically and evaluate evidence/previous research and provide a critical interpretation of data and text
  • 3. Abstract and synthesise relevant information, assess the merits of different theories, concepts, explanations and policies
  • 4. Describe your results and analyse them in terms of the original aims through demonstration of an appropriate approach to analysis and application of a rigorous pattern of experimental conception and/or data collection
  • 5. Present substantive, relevant and realistic conclusions and indicate directions for future research in the area
  • 6. Discuss critically the shortcomings of your research methods and defend your philosophy and methodology
  • 7. Develop and sustain a reasoned argument
  • 8. Demonstrate a high level of literacy, graphicacy, numeracy and conceptual sophistication

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 9. Plan, design and execute a piece of rigorous geographical research, including the production of a dissertation
  • 10. Undertake effective fieldwork, with due consideration of safety and risk assessment (where applicable)
  • 11. Undertake laboratory work with awareness of standard procedures and health and safety (where applicable)
  • 12. Prepare effective maps and diagrams using a range of appropriate technologies
  • 13. Employ appropriate technical and/or laboratory-based methods for the analysis of spatial and environmental data (where applicable)
  • 14. Employ where appropriate social science/geographical survey techniques for the collection and analysis of data
  • 15. Collect, interpret, evaluate and combine different types of geographical evidence and information
  • 16. Recognise the ethical issues involved in debates and enquiries (where applicable)

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 17. Plan and execute a piece of primary research
  • 18. Undertake independent research (e.g. in library, laboratory, field), effectively, responsibly and with consideration of ethical issues
  • 19. Collect, manipulate, analyse geographical data, and communicate findings using numeric and computational techniques where applicable
  • 20. Communicate research problems and ask relevant questions
  • 21. Liaise effectively with public and private bodies where appropriate
  • 22. Structure a major piece of research work, and present it competently and clearly (e.g. write coherently, create and use diagrams, figures, appendices using appropriate C&IT)
  • 23. Work independently (i.e. personal motivation, decision making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and work to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

You hand in a dissertation proposal at the end of Term 2, Year Two. You are assigned an advisor who discusses the proposal in May and June. Field work is carried out in the summer vacation. Laboratory work is carried out in Term 1 only. A progress report is discussed in October and again in January. The dissertation is handed in at the end of Term 2. You are asked to see your advisor as and when necessary and other members of staff where appropriate.

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 Teaching6Tutorials: Personal tutorials held within Terms 1 and Term 2
Scheduled Learning and Teaching6Group tutorials focusing on student led issues such as data analysis and dissertation writing
Scheduled Learning and Teaching2Seminars: Presentations to dissertation group in Term 2
Guided Independent Study436Preparing progress reports and a presentation. Conducting research and writing a dissertation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Progress reports submitted at the beginning of Term 1 and Term 2 400 wordsAllOral 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
Dissertation10012000 wordsAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
DissertationDissertationAllAugust 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 - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Dissertation, independent research

Credit value45
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

2019/0: GEO2330 Research Methods for Physical Geography and GEO2331 Research Design in Physical Geography
2020/1: GEO2331 Research Design in Physical Geography and GEO2332 Numerical Methods for Physical Geographers

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date