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Study information

Research Design and Methods

Module titleResearch Design and Methods
Module codeGEO2462
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Jo Browse (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce the conceptual, analytical and research skills necessary for you to carry out independent research work, with direct applicability to your dissertation as well as through the rest of your degree and future workplaces. You will be introduced to a range of techniques and methods used in data collection and analysis as well as broader issues relevant to the successful execution of independent research, including research design, survey and sampling, data analysis, interpretation of information, and presentation. This module is compulsory for students on the BA/BSc Geography, BSc Environmental Sciences and BSci Marine science programmes..


Module aims - intentions of the module

This module prepares you to complete research projects within your degree programme, especially in your dissertation. It aims to introduce you to a range of methodologies employed in research alongside the wider decision making processes that all researchers have to make, so that you feel confident about undertaking independent research in a rigorous and critical manner. Independent  research constitutes a central element in the degree programme in geography, environmental science and marine science and is a critical skill in employability.

On completion of this module you will have gained a number of key employability skills that are embedded in the course. These skills range from verbal and written communication, initiative and self-motivation, drive, planning and organisation, flexibility, and time-management. In particular, the module will:

  • improve your ability to work with confidence and independence
  • help you to express your ideas clearly and assuredly in speech and text
  • teach you to gather information systematically and analyse information using appropriate methods
  • encourage you to act on initiative, identify opportunities and proactively put ideas and solutions forward
  • encourage you to get things done and make things happen by asking you to look for better ways of working
  • support you to be proficient in planning activities and carrying them out effectively
  • help you to be adaptive to changing situations and environments
  • develop your proficiency in time-management, prioritising tasks and able to work to deadlines

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Describe a range of specialised techniques and approaches involved in collecting, analysing and presenting information and apply these with limited guidance
  • 2. Identify/formulate and evaluate questions or problems, including those involving data collected in the field
  • 3. Identify and evaluate approaches to problem-solving with guidance, and be able to apply new ideas to new situations
  • 4. Evaluate the issues involved in applying research design skills within the specific context of field-based, desk-based, and laboratory-based research
  • 5. Apply, interpret and use with limited guidance quantitative and qualitative information, including that gathered in the field
  • 6. Build on your R experience from first year and provide training in advanced techniques in R

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 7. Identify critical questions from the literature and synthesise research-informed examples from the literature into written work
  • 8. Identify and implement, with guidance, appropriate methodologies and theories for addressing specific research problems in geography, environmental sciences and or human sciences
  • 9. With some guidance, deploy and critique established techniques of analysis, practical investigation, and enquiry within geography and natural sciences
  • 10. Describe and evaluate approaches to our understanding of in geography and natural sciences with reference to primary literature, reviews and research articles

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 11. Develop, with some guidance, a logical and reasoned argument with valid conclusions
  • 12. Communicate ideas, principles and theories fluently using a variety of formats and means in a manner appropriate to the intended audience
  • 13. Collect and interpret appropriate data and complete research-like tasks, drawing on a range of sources, with limited guidance
  • 14. Use C&IT effectively and appropriately and with limited guidance to select, analyse, present and communicate information
  • 15. Evaluate own strengths and weaknesses in relation to professional and practical skills, and apply own evaluation criteria
  • 16. Reflect effectively on learning experiences and summarise personal achievements
  • 17. Work in a small team and deal proficiently with the issues that teamwork requires (i.e. communication, motivation, decision-making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and working to deadlines)

Syllabus plan

The syllabus will focus on the use of real-world data drawn from geography, environmental science and human science to explore analysis and sampling methods in all three disciplines. Students will learn multiple techniques including (but not limited to):

  • Research design
  • Designing and analysing questionnaires and interviews
  • sampling procedures in the natural and social sciences
  • Analysis of quantitative data in R
  • Comparing data
  • Importing and manipulating large datasets in R
  • data visualisation
  • Understanding uncertainty and bias in the natural and social sciences
  • Dissertation and project planning

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 teaching10Quantitative analysis practicals (term 1): IT practicals using R
Scheduled learning and teaching10Qualitative analysis practicals (term 2)
Scheduled learning and teaching10Guided discussion sessions
Guided independent study125Independent reading and preparation for practicals and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Practical exercises linked to methods training sessionsDemonstration of skills attainment through discussion and/or completion of exercises in class1-5, 8-17Oral, in class

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
Information-handling exercises701800 words1-17Comment sheet
Group podcast on poor research practice3015 minutes1-4, 7-17Comment sheet

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Information-handling exercisesInformation-handling exercises1-17August ref/def
Group podcastBlog post discussing poor research practice (1800 words)1-4, 7-17August 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 complete a further research proposal. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will count for 100% of the final mark and will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Cox, V.,Translating Statistics to Make Decisions: A Guide for the Non-Statistician, Berkeley, CA : Apress : Imprint: Apress, 2017
  • Gaubatz, Kurt Taylor ,A survivor's guide to R : an introduction for the uninitiated and the unnerved, Old Dominion University. Los Angeles : SAGE
  • Best, J., Damned lies and statistics: untangling numbers from the media, politicians, and activists, Updated ed., Berkeley, Calif. : University of California Press, c2012
  • Bernard, HR. Research Methods in Anthropology: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. AltaMira Press 2005
  • Bryman A, Social Science Research Methods. Oxford University Press, 2013
  • Field A et al. Discovering Statistics Using R. SAGE Publications 2012

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources


Indicative learning resources - Other resources


Key words search

Physical Geography, Human Geography, Marine Sciences, Environmental Science, Research Skills, Research Design, Research Methods, Data Analysis and Interpretation, Data Science.

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites

GEO1419 Introduction to data science

Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date