Writing the World

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Austin Zeiderman STC 601D and Dr Megan Ryburn LACC


This course is compulsory on the MPhil/PhD in Human Geography and Urban Studies. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

The word “geography” derives from a Greek term whose literal translation is “earth description” or “writing the world.” At a basic level, it refers to the art of producing written accounts of people and their environments based on first-hand knowledge. The institutionalization of geography in the nineteenth century paralleled the professionalization of academic disciplines in the service of empire and capital. This course provides a space for reengaging with the practice of “writing the world” as a shared intellectual pursuit.

GY503 has two main objectives, both of which are designed to support the intellectual and career development of doctoral students in human geography, planning, urban studies, and related disciplines. The first objective is to provide advanced training in research-based writing. The second objective is to foster critical engagement with classic and current texts of a geographical nature. Both objectives are to be achieved collectively by bringing together doctoral students and academic staff to meet regularly throughout the year.


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 series of workshops across Michaelmas, Lent and Summer Terms.

This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Week 6 of Lent Term.

The core participants in GY503 are doctoral students at all stages. Academic staff and postdoctoral fellows from the Urbanisation, Planning and Development cluster of the Department of Geography & Environment are also strongly encouraged to participate.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 essay.

Doctoral students participating in this course will have the opportunity to workshop a draft of their written work (approximately 10,000 words) once during the year. Example of suitable submissions include working drafts of thesis chapters, journal articles, and research proposals. Participants are expected to attend all meetings and to have read the specified materials beforehand.

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Value: Non-credit bearing

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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