GY246      Half Unit
Field Methods in Geography

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Murray Low STC 5.12 and Dr Ryan Centner STC 6.01c


This course is compulsory on the BA in Geography. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Course content

The course aims to prepare second-year students to undertake individual research projects. It examines the methodologies used in field-based geographical research and evaluates their application to different kinds of research problems. It considers the choice of methodology which may be used in the student’s own Independent Research Project (IRP) and how to plan research. It enables students to acquire familiarity with, and practice of, contemporary qualitative research techniques and to examine different ways of, and gain experience in, presenting research results. A further aim of the course is to enable students to evaluate critically the methodological validity of geographical literature.

The course covers the following qualitative approaches to social science methodologies:

(i) techniques for qualitative data analysis including structured and unstructured interviewing, participant observation, and research ethics, including ethics when conducting fieldwork;

(ii) application of qualitative research techniques in the field; and

(iii) techniques for designing, carrying out, and presenting an Independent Research Project.

Topics covered:

1. Planning an independent research project

2. Qualitative methodology in human geography: What can we know? What kind of knowledge can we gain about qualities of the social and spatial world? And how?

3. Interviews (plus questionnaires and focus groups): What people think, and are able/willing to tell us

4. Ethnography & observation: What people do, and maybe even how they feel about it

5. Transecting & comparing: Making sense of places

6. How to design a research project

7. Field-course location B: Background, context and themes

8. Field-course location B: Background, context and themes

9. Field-course location B: Background, context and themes

10. Field-course location B: Background, context and themes


9 hours of lectures and 9 hours of classes in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6.

One week-long field-course to a non-UK location is associated with this course, normally in the final week of the Lent Term. Students should be aware that, although the costs of this course are subsidised by the Department, they will be expected to make a substantial financial contribution themselves. There are bursaries available from the Department for students who can document financial need.

An alternative field exercise will be undertaken by students who are unable to participate in the above one-week residential field-course.

Formative coursework

Short exercises conducted in preparation for class sessions throughout the Lent Term.

Indicative reading

Alasuutari, P. et al. (2008) The SAGE Handbook of Social Research Methods. London: Sage

Barnes, J. A., (1979), Who Should Know What? Social Science, Privacy and Ethics, Harmondsworth: Penguin. [HN29 B26 Course Collection]

Barzun, Jacques and Henry F. Graff (1985): The Modern Researcher, San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Part III.

Bauer M W & G Gaskell (2000) Qualitative researching with text, image and sound – a practical handbook, London, Sage

Bell, J. (1993): Doing your research Project – a Guide for First-Time Researchers in Education and Social Science, Milton Keynes: Open University Press, chapter 12.

Bryman, A. (2004) Social Research Methods. 2nd edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press

Coffey, A. and P. Atkinson (1996): Making Sense of Qualitative Data, chapter 2, London: Sage Publications.

Crotty, M.J. (2003) Foundations of Social Research: Meaning and Perspective in the Research Process. London, Sage

Dunleavy, Patrick (1986): Studying for a Degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences, Basingstoke: Macmillan, chapter 5.

Esterberg, K.G. (2002) Qualitative Methods in Social Research. Boston: McGraw-Hill

Eyles, J. (ed.), (1988), Research in Human Geography: Introductions and Investigations. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.

Flick U (2006) An introduction to qualitative research, London, Sage (3rd edition)

Flowerdew, R. and Martin, D. (eds.) (2005) Methods in Human Geography: A guide for students doing a research project. 2nd edition. Harlow, England; New York: Pearson/Prentice Hall

Gilbert, N. (1992), Researching social life. London: Sage Publications.

Flick, U. (2006) An Introduction to Qualitative Research. 3rd edition. London: Sage

Flick, U., E. von Kardorff and I. Steinke (eds.) (2004) A Companion to Qualitative Research. London: Sage

Flowerdew, R. and D. Martin (2005) Methods in Human Geography: A guide for students doing a research project. 2nd edition. Essex: Pearson

Hay, I. (2010) Qualitative research methods in human geography. (3rd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hennink, M. et al (2011) Qualitative Research Methods. London; Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE

Kvale, S. (1996), Interviews: An introduction to qualitative research interviewing. London: Sage. Lindsay, J. (1997): Techniques in Human Geography, London: Routledge.

Mason J (2002) Qualitative research, London, Sage (2nd edition)

Parsons, Tony and Peter G. Knight (1995): How to Do Your Dissertation in Geography and Related Disciplines, London: Chapman & Hall.

Rogers, A., Vites, H., Goudie, A. (1992), The student's companion to Geography. Blackwell.

Turabian, Kate L. (1996): A Manual for Writers of Term Papers, Theses, and Dissertations, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Watson, George (1987): Writing a Thesis – a Guide to Long Essays and Dissertations, London: Longman.


Project (70%, 3000 words) and research proposal (30%) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Capped 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills