Introduction to Geographical Research

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Austin Zeiderman, Dr Murray Low, Prof Claire Mercer, Prof Henry Overman, Prof Gareth Jones and Dr Richard Perkins


This course is compulsory on the BA in Geography and BSc in Economic History and Geography. This course is available on the BSc in Environment and Development. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Course content

The main objective of this course is to introduce students to the production of geographical and environmental knowledge and to prepare them to become producers of such knowledge themselves. It provides students with a sound understanding of both the conceptual foundations and real-world applications of a variety of methodological approaches for conducting research. To appreciate why, how, and to what ends geographers conduct research on the social and spatial dimensions of human activity, the research process is examined from beginning to end: selecting a topic, performing a literature review, designing a project, collecting and analysing data, and communicating results. The process of producing knowledge about geography and the environment is also examined from a number of different perspectives: examining case studies of written work, engaging with internationally-renowned researchers, discussing the rationale for choosing a methodological approach, practicing the application of individual methods, and designing and executing a piece of independent research. Both quantitative and qualitative research methods are discussed in detail and practical exercises give students the opportunity to apply various methods from the course in their own research.


In the Department of Geography and Environment, teaching will be delivered through a combination of classes/seminars, pre-recorded lectures, live online lectures, in-person lectures and other supplementary interactive live activities.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes across the Michaelmas Term and Lent Term.


No class to be scheduled for Week 1 in MT.


Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Week 6 of Lent Term. Compulsory exercises to be completed instead of lecture/class in Week 11 of Lent Term.

Formative coursework

Students will be given the opportunity to complete two formative assignments during the course of the year: one in MT that draws on qualitative research methods and one in LT draws on quantitative research methods.

Information on the formative assignments will be provided in the course outline.

Indicative reading

Methods in human geography: a guide for students doing a research project (Flowerdew and Martin, 2005); Statistics: a tool for social research (Healey, 2012); Statistics in geography and environmental science (Harris and Jarvis, 2011); Geography and geographers: Anglo-American geography since 1945 (Johnston, 1997); International Encyclopedia of Human Geography (Kitchin and Thrift, 2009); Key methods in geography (Clifford, French, and Valentine, 2010); Qualitative research methods in human geography (Hay, 2010).


Project (50%, 3000 words) in the LT.
Project (50%, 3500 words) in the ST.

The first project (3000 words) will be due toward the end of Lent Term. The second project (3500 words) will be due at the start of Summer Term.

Student performance results

(2017/18 - 2019/20 combined)

Classification % of students
First 28.8
2:1 48.6
2:2 18
Third 2.7
Fail 1.8

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Geography & Environment

Total students 2019/20: 38

Average class size 2019/20: 13

Capped 2019/20: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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