Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)

Module GEOG4007: Communicating Science in Physical Geography

Department: Geography

GEOG4007: Communicating Science in Physical Geography

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 10 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to F802
Tied to F804


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • 1) To enable students to engage with and participate in the communication of scientific research through a seminar-based programme;
  • 2) To provide students with experience in critical analysis and discussion of cutting edge scientific research in physical geography in fora where they engage with professional speakers and organize and conduct their own discussion groups.
  • 3) To expose students to alternative conceptual and methodological approaches outside the local based science community.
  • 4) To enable students to reflect on, and develop, both written and oral communication skills, with a particular focus on communicating science to a non-specific audience.


  • A seminar-based programme which encourages engagement with cutting edge and emerging research issues in the areas of Physical Geography allows students to critically reflect on the communication of scientific issues in physical geography. Over the course of one year this will entail introductory sessions that introduce why and how to communicate science to a non-specialist audience, followed by a series of research seminars. These seminars will typically involve the established departmental seminar programme and may include some invited practitioners from the commercial sector and also utilize input from the departments Distinguished International Visitor scheme. The module will also comprise examples and advice for effective and accessible scientific writing.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A broad-based understanding of contemporary and cutting edge research issues in Physical Geography.
  • An in depth knowledge of bodies of emerging research literature relevant to Physical Geography.
  • Advanced understanding of the professional approaches and styles of data compilation, interpretation and presentation based upon a broad range of Physical Geography topics.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to engage in constructive criticism of a range of Physical Geography topics.
  • An ability to synthesize the core research issues, problems and controversies emerging from a range of physical geography topics .
  • An ability to engage in constructive criticism of the communication of scientific material (both oral and written)
  • An ability to communicate scientific research to non-specialist audiences
Key Skills:
  • Ability to digest, deliberate and critically discuss issues surrounding modern research directions through contact with professional Physical Geographers.
  • Deliberative and discursive skills in response to oral presentations.
  • A clear understanding of what makes effective scientific writing, and why.

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

  • This module is based on 8 x 1 hour long research seminars arranged by the physical geography research clusters and delivered in Terms 1 and 2, which students will be required to attend and discuss afterwards. This allows students to practice their deliberative and discursive skills. Four other sessions will accompany the module and involve introductory sessions on scientific communication beyond academia and how to engage with non-specialist audiences. This will include development of scientific writing skills. The delivery as a long thin 10 credit module is essential because it is tied in to the logistics of departmental seminar programme and student participation needs to be paced throughout the year in order to provide the requisite processing time. Students are expected to compile seminar notes, and produce a press release on seminars of their choice, as well as give a seminar presentation on their third year dissertation and write a ‘News and Views’ article on a paper of their choice. Thus, each student has 24 hours of contact time and 76 hours of independent study. Students will be given formative feedback on their seminar press release and through group discussions. The summative assessment is designed to evaluate the ability of students to critically analyses scientific work and test the oral and written communication skills developed during the module. Formative assessment provides an introduction to the key skills required in scientific communication and feeds forward to the summative work.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Visiting Seminar Series 8 bi-weekly 1 hour 8
Seminar (break out discussions) 8 bi-weekly 1 hour 8
Lectures 4 Intro and Conclusion 2 hour 8
Student presentations 2 Term 2 2 hours 4
Self-directed Learning 72
Total 100

Summative Assessment

Component: News and Views Article Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
News and Views Article for general audience 1500 words 100%
Component: Seminar Presentation Component Weighting: 35%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seminar Presentation 20 minutes 100%
Component: Seminar Press Release Component Weighting: 15%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Seminar Press Release 500 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative Seminar Press Release

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