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Study information

BA Dissertation in Geography

Module titleBA Dissertation in Geography
Module codeGEO3438
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Professor Catherine Leyshon (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks



Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Doing a genuinely original piece of research is a crucial part of your academic training as a geographer. In this module you will get hands on experience of participating in world-class research, guided by professional researchers. You will learn how to design, plan and implement a self-contained research project and will have the opportunity to draw on the knowledge and skills you have acquired throughout your degree programme. In particular, you will have the opportunity to utilise the human geography and social science aspects of your programme.

Module aims - intentions of the module

The dissertation provides you with the opportunity to undertake your own independent and original piece of research, drawing on the substantive intellectual themes developed in the Geography programme and in particular the human geography and social science aspects of your programme. The aims of the dissertation are for you to develop:

  • knowledge of a specific social scientific topic, of relevance to your Geography programme;
  • an in-depth understanding of modern scientific discourse as seen through journal publications;
  • an understanding of the challenges of empirical geographical research, and the ability to deal with practical research problems (e.g. collecting, manipulating and analysing qualitative data);
  • skills in designing a project and linking its subject-matter to other bodies of geographical knowledge in the social sciences;
  • skills in dealing with the complex inter-relationships of real-world social processes;
  • transferable skills in inter-personal communication, data collection and analysis, report writing, and effective time and project management.

The management, execution and communication of your dissertation research project allows you to develop highly valuable skills for the workplace. This module hands research-led enquiry over to you, the student, and allows you to tackle real-world problems and questions that could ultimately lead to your specialism in the field. The module will expose you to some of the latest developments in the field of human geography and ultimately pave the way into a deeper understanding of evidence-based scientific enquiry.

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 and define and defend the purpose of the dissertation and its place and function within geography
  • 8. Demonstrate a high level of literacy, graphicacy, numeracy and conceptual sophistication and prepare and produce a final report with limited support

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 final dissertation, which draws on the substantive intellectual themes developed in the Geography programmes
  • 10. Undertake effective fieldwork, with due consideration of safety and risk assessment (where applicable)
  • 11. Prepare effective maps and diagrams using a range of appropriate technologies (where applicable)
  • 12. Employ appropriate technical and/or laboratory-based methods for the analysis of social, spatial and environmental data (where applicable)
  • 13. Employ where appropriate social science/geographical survey techniques for the gathering and analysis of data
  • 14. Gather, interpret, evaluate and combine different types of geographical evidence and information
  • 15. Recognise the ethical issues involved in debates and enquiries (where applicable)
  • 16. Gain an understanding of how geography is practised and how research is reported through engaging with research articles from a specific academic journal

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 17. Plan and execute a piece of primary research, operating in complex and unpredictable contexts
  • 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 effectively using different mediums and 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. Take responsibility for your own work and demonstrate competence in working independently (i.e. personal motivation, decision making, awareness, responsibility, and management skills, including setting and work to deadlines) and reflecting upon your progress and learning

Syllabus plan

The dissertation is a piece of independent research that is supported by a range of preparatory courses and tutorial/advisor meetings during Stages 2 and 3. You are obliged to meet with your advisor a minimum of five times in stage 3, between submission of your proposal and submission of your final report, but are encouraged to be proactive and seek additional meetings. Changes to your dissertation topic and to your choice of award (ie BA or BSc) will not be possible beyond 1 December in the final stage.

Stage 2: training is contained in the Stage 2 research methods module, and in the other modules you will take, which prepare you for the selection of topics including: choosing and designing a project, practical data acquisition and analysis methods. Meet project advisors to discuss dissertation plan following on submission of proposal at the beginning of term 3.

Summer vacation onwards: implement dissertation plan.

Stage 3: Continue research and report preparation. Week 2 of term 1 and week 1 of term 2: present progress report for discussion with advisor. Discussion of progress, researching and report writing in tutorials, with a minimum of 3 meetings. Submit dissertation at the end of term 3, Stage 3.

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 Teaching10Dissertation supervision/tutorial hours
Scheduled Learning and Teaching10Dissertation lectures, workshops and online forums for all dissertation students
Guided Independent Study380Dissertation data collection, analysis and write up

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Project risk assessmentRisk assessment form17-18, 23Written and oral for health and safety team and supervisor
Project ethics assessmentShort online form17-18, 23Written from supervisor and ethics committee
Progress report at the beginning of term 1400 wordsAllWritten and oral
Progress report at the beginning of term 2UnlimitedAllWritten and oral

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
Oral presentation108 minutesAllWritten
Dissertation project report908000 wordsAllWritten

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Oral presentationPoster Recorded presentationAllAugust Assessment Period
Dissertation project reportDissertation project reportAllAugust Assessment Period

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 resubmit your dissertation project report and/or submit a recorded presentation. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of referral will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Baxter, L., Hughes, C. and Tight, M. (1996) How to research, (Milton Keynes, Open University Press).
  • Bell, J. (1993) Doing your research project, (Milton Keynes, Open University Press).
  • Bird, J. (1993) The changing worlds of geography: a guide to concepts and methods, (London, Clarendon Press).
  • Chalmers, N. and Parker, P. (1989) The Open University project guide. Fieldwork and statistics for ecological projects, (London, Field Studies Council).
  • Cooper, B.M. (1964) Writing technical reports, (Harmondsworth, Penguin).
  • Creswell, J.W. (1994) Research design: qualitative and quantitative methods, (London, Sage).
  • Flick, U. (1998) An introduction to qualitative research, (London, Sage).
  • Johnston, R. (1991) Geography and geographers, (4th edition), (London, Arnold).
  • O’Connor, M. and Woodford, F.P. (1975) Writing scientific papers in English, (London, Association of Scientific Publishers).
  • Parsons, T. and Knight, P.G. (1995) How to do your dissertation in geography and related disciplines, (London, Chapman and Hall).
  • Robinson, G.M. (1998) Methods and techniques in human geography, (London, Wiley).
  • Rogers, A., Viles, H. and Goudie, A. (1992) The student’s companion to Geography, (Oxford, Blackwell).
  • Rudestam, K.E. and Newton, R.R. (1992) Surviving your dissertation, (London, Sage).

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Independent research, data collection, data analysis, critical thinking, interpretation

Credit value40
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites

LES3001 Preparing to Graduate

NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date