GY247      Half Unit
Field Methods in Geography with Economics

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ryan Centner STC 6.01c, Prof Claire Mercer, Prof Steve Gibbons (field trip co-ordinator) and Prof Simona Iammarino

Dr Erica Pani


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Geography with Economics. 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 and environmental 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 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 field-specific qualitative and field-specific quantitative 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. Topics related to the specific destination of the field course


The field course offers an opportunity to apply the methods studied on the first part of the course to research on the economic geography of a specific location. Students will embark on a series of orientation and research activities during the trip. In the past, the field trip has visited the state of Kerala in south India, in the area around Kochi (formerly Cochin). Kerala provides a rich and fascinating introduction to South Asian landscapes and culture, both new and old. Kerala is often described as a success story of economic development – the so called ‘Kerala model’ - with high levels of literacy and life expectancy, despite its relatively low per capita income. The destination, duration and content of the field trip in 2020/21 is subject to change, depending on the global situation regarding coronavirus and restrictions on travel. 


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.

Field-course: The course includes a one week-long field trip, normally in the final week of the Lent Term. In the past the field course has visited Kerala, India. The destination, duration and content of the field trip in 2020/21 is subject to change, depending on the global situation regarding coronavirus and restrictions on travel.

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.

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

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.


Research proposal (20%) and research project (60%) in the ST.
Class participation (20%) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Student performance results

(2018/19 - 2020/21 combined)

Classification % of students
First 30.3
2:1 50
2:2 18.2
Third 1.5
Fail 0

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 24

Average class size 2020/21: 8

Capped 2020/21: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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