Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2023-2024 (archived)


Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Not available in 2023/24 Module Cap Location Durham
Tied to F802
Tied to F804


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enable students to apply the skills and methods acquired in the MSci compulsory and optional modules to a specialist research topic in physical geography
  • To acquire an advanced knowledge and understanding of a specialist field/topic in physical geography
  • To enable students to undertake a research-based project, which has the potential to yield results of sufficient relevance and quality to be considered for submission to a journal (where appropriate) or to be of interest to stakeholders and practitioners


  • The research project enables students to develop and execute an extended piece of research on a specialised topic in physical geography. It is chosen in consultation with an allocated supervisor or supervisory team, and must be within the spirit and practical scope of the MSci degree programme. The topic will be approved by the module convenor. Detailed guidelines on format and procedures will be provided in the Research Project Guide

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • In-depth understanding of a specialised topic in physical geography, in relation to the programme route followed, and through engagement with the literature and supervisors
  • Advanced knowledge and understanding of a specialised area, including where appropriate theory and methods
  • Advanced understanding of data acquisition, analysis, and presentation in the chosen field of research
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to frame a piece of research within a wider academic context, and then to identify and develop the necessary capacity to conduct research under that framing
  • Capability to carry out and report a piece of focused research
  • Acquisition of sufficient research skills through the production of a report and oral presentation to prepare a student for doctoral-level research / professional placement
  • Critical awareness of a specific area of the literature
  • Awareness of health & safety and ethical issues in research
Key Skills:
  • Ability to write an independent advanced level report of a substantial nature
  • Skill to write clearly and concisely, explaining why the chosen topic of research is important, critiquing previous research, and providing a coherent analysis and discussion of findings
  • Capability to independently manage a research project (under guidance from and in dialogue with supervisors), from the formulation of research questions, to the collection and analysis of data, to the presentation of the report
  • Advanced quantitative data analysis appropriate to the topic of the research including: spatial analysis, statistical methods and modelling techniques
  • Exercise of initiative and skill in written and oral communication

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

  • Teaching and learning will occur in both group and individual formats. Group sessions will consist of two timetabled meetings: one to introduce the aims and scope of the module and to discuss initial project ideas, and a second to allow students to present an update on research progress and receive formative feedback from the rest of the cohort. Individual supervision will provide a forum in which ongoing work can be discussed with a subject expert, and in which the student can acquire and enhance knowledge and understanding of a specialised field. Students will be directed to an existing body of literature relevant to the subject under study, and be advised on the potential sources of data and modes of analysis. Regular meetings between student and supervisor(s) will take place during the course of planning, research and writing. These meetings may take place in the office, lab or field, and may include hands-on training in appropriate research techniques. Supervision will normally be shared between 2 members of academic staff. NB. The specific timing of meetings will not be prescribed by the convenor or timetable but will be agreed by student and supervisor based on general guidance for development of the research project
  • The student will produce a project proposal and a resources form, and will receive formative feedback on the technical aspects of these documents from the supervisory team. The student will present an update on research progress to the rest of the module cohort and will receive informal comments from other students and formative feedback from the module convener on the subject-specific content (fed-back to supervisors) and presentation skills. The student will also receive formative feedback on an initial draft of the report from supervisors. The timing and content of the proposal and resources form will be specified in the module guide.
  • Assessment will be by means of a project report of no more than 10,000 words (including footnotes but excluding references, figures and tables). The report is an extended piece of work which will be written and organised in the style of an academic journal manuscript. It should be of sufficient scope and quality to have the potential for submission to a peer-reviewed journal, if appropriate. This is designed to test subject specific knowledge in the particular area of research; assess advanced data acquisition, analysis and presentation methods; and demonstrate advanced written communication skills and critical analysis. The module and assessment will conclude with a 15 minute oral presentation of the research findings in a conference format towards the end of term 3 (after submission of the project report). This particular mode of assessment evaluates oral communication skills assesses presentation graphics and tests effective time management/organization.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Group discussion and presentation 2 Varies 3 hours 6
Meetings with supervisory team Varies Varies Varies 16
Conference 1 End of summer term 6 hours 6
Self-directed learning 572
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Research Project Report Component Weighting: 90%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Project Report 10,000 words 100%
Component: Oral Presentation of Research Findings Component Weighting: 10%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Oral Presentation 15 minutes (including questions) 100%

Formative Assessment:

The student will submit three pieces of work for formative assessment: 1) Research proposal (1,000 words) 2) Resources form, including logistical issues, health and safety considerations, equipment requirements, and costs 3) Initial draft of report. The supervisors will provide written and verbal feedback on the research proposal and resources form and written and verbal feedback on a draft of the research project report. The rest of the cohort will also provide verbal feedback on the research proposal during the research proposal seminar

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