Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2011-2012 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2011/12 Module Cap
Tied to F8K207


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To provide students with an advanced, in-depth knowledge of the major currents of philosophical thought and theory in contemporary human geography.
  • To develop students' abilities to evaluate and critically appraise competing epistemological, theoretical and philosophical approaches.


  • The content of the module is determined by theoretical interests of staff teaching on it and this can change by year. Key areas will include:
  • An introduction to spatial and social theory
  • Structuralism and post-structuralism (e.g. Marxism, non-representational theory, network theories, interpreative approaches)
  • Geography and political theory (e.g. critical race theory, feminist theories)
  • Counter theories (e.g postcolonial theory)
  • A reflection on the nature of theory and theorising in Geography

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should have full awareness of contemporary philosophical and theoretical debates in human geography and understand how these are informed by broader social theory.
  • Students should be fully aware of the significance of theory and philosophy in human geography.
  • Students should understand the reasons for debating theory and philosophy and be able to interpret their own research interests in relation to these reasons.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to situate their own research interests within the above debates.
  • Students should understand the relationship between theory / philosophy and conceptualising and problematising research questions.
  • Students should be fully able to appraise (critical reading) and debate (critical discussion) different theoretical and philosophical approaches in human Geography.
Key Skills:
  • Students should know how to develop theoretical and conceptual frameworks for their own research interests.
  • Students should be able to explain and defend their theoretical and philosophical approaches to research questions.

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

  • The module is delivered by a combination of staff-led and student-led sessions. With the exception of the introductory session, key seminar readings are distributed to the students a week in advance of each session. Each session has two staff-led components; the first is designed to provide a formal introduction to the relevant issues and debates, including key literature, and hence to deliver a framework around which students can situate the readings; the second is a conclusion to each session, summing up key points and pointing to further areas of investigation. Student-led seminar discussion make up the main part of each two-hour session, where students are given the opportunity to debate what they have learnt and read about and to clarify any areas of uncertainty or confusion. Formative assessment is through a one-day workshop at the end of the module, which involves student presentations (for students taking MARM on the same topic as the summative essay; for Masters by Research and PhD students on a topic relating to their proposed thesis). The summative assessment requires students to write a 5,000 word critical essay on one topic covered in the module and/or of relevance to their own research. In this essay, students must demonstrate that they have understood in detail an area of theory and/or philosophy in geography (subject skill 2), provide a clear appraisal of original theoretical writings and how they have been deployed and debated within the discipline (subject knowledge 1), and develop a conceptual framework for their own research using these theories and philosophies (subject knowledge 2 and 3; subject skill 2).

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 10 weekly 1 10
Seminars 10 weekly 1 10
Other: workshop 1 once 8 8
Preparation & Reading 272
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Proposal/abstract on essay topic (1 page max., setting out topic/area of focus and key theories/theorists that will be drawn upon) with written feedback Half-day workshop will involve student presentations, group discussion and oral feedback on the same topic as the summative essay.

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