Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2010-2011 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Open Level 4 Credits 15 Availability Available in 2010/11 Module Cap None.


  • None.



Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The aim of this module is to provide an overview of the methods used in risk research and training in the generic skills that risk research requires, including risk communication and engagement. We believe that all students should graduate with this overview, as well as with these generic skills, but that specific methodological training should relate to the routes followed within the programme, according to the extent to which those routes require methodological training. Thus, this module will provide a high level overview of the natural, engineering and social science skills used in risk research as well as specific training in communication skills, including written and oral communications and public engagement in relation to risk.


  • The module will be divided into two blocks. The first block, to be examined by a take home examination paper, will focus upon core methods used to research risk. This will include: framing risk research; core elements in quantitative analysis including methods of generalisation; core elements in qualitative analysis; historical approaches; risk forecasting. The second block, to be examined by oral presentation and a synthesis report, will focus upon issues surrounding how we communicate risk, both to other risk practitioners and the wider ‘consumers’ of risk research. This will include the three core models of risk communication: (1) information deficit; (2) deliberative processes; and (3) co-production.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will understand the issues surrounding how risk is communicated as well as its relationship to the practice of research (PK2)
  • Students will understand the range of methods used to understand risk and their relationship to the core concepts introduced in the Understanding Risk module (PK4)
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will understand the critical role played by problem framing in researching risk and the ethical questions that result from different kinds of framings and methods (PS1)
  • Students will be able to develop different strategies for researching risk, according to the issue being investigated. (PS1)
  • Students will be able to evaluate the merits and disadvantages of different forms of risk communication as a means of developing sensible risk communication plans. (PS2)
Key Skills:
  • Written communication, notably report synthesis (PG1)
  • Oral presentation (PG1)

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Two blocks. The first block would focus upon core methods used in risk research, comprising 5 x 2 contact hours, and a tutorial (1 x 1 hour, maximum group size 5), the tutorial being based upon a question and answer exercise. This block will be examined by take home examination. The second block would focus upon communication skills, including communication theory and its relation to risk and risk perception; as well as generic writing and presentation skills. This will comprise 3 x 2 contact hours, 2 x 2 hour workshops (focusing upon practicing oral presentation skills) and a tutorial (1 x 1 hour, maximum group size 5, focusing upon preparing synthesis reports). This block will be examined by report and oral presentation. Thus, each student has 22 hours of contact time and 128 hours of independent study.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 8 1 2 hours 16
Workshops 2 1 2 hours 4
Tutorials 2 1 1 hour 2
Self-directed learning 128
Total 150

Summative Assessment

Component: Take home exam Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Take home exam 2000 words 100% Yes
Component: Report Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Report 2000 words 100% Yes
Component: Oral presentation Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Oral presentation 10 minutes 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Peer assessment in workshops and written feedback on the summative assignment. NB: formative work is a compulsory part of this module.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University