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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Geosciences : Geography

Undergraduate Course: Fundamentals of Research Design (GEGR10133)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Geosciences CollegeCollege of Science and Engineering
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course introduces students to diverse skills required for writing a research proposal. Particular emphasis is given to providing materials and information that will prepare students for the Geography Dissertation. A variety of skills are introduced including:
1) Research question formulation
2) Choice of appropriate theoretical and methodological frameworks
3) Critical reviewing of literature
4) Planning, analysis and write-up of work
5) Use of Computer-based and IT skills to enable efficient working
Course description Fundamentals of Research Design within Human Geography is focused on producing research proposals and preparing students to undertake the research and writing of a dissertation. The course will introduce students to the multiple approaches to designing a research project, including advice on developing and integrating, literature, theory and methods, as well as general information about health and safety, ethics, and so on. The course will be delivered through a combination of taught sessions, guest presentations, and small group workshops on the following topics:

Week 1. Coming up with a topic.
Groupwork activities, building 3 pitches/ideas for a dissertation topic from: (a) today¿s news; (b) a member of supervisory staff¿s research interests; (3) one group member¿s interest.
Week 2. From topic to research questions:
How to write answerable, focused, narrow research questions to respond to throughout the enquiry process.
Week 3. Developing a methodological framework: practicality and justification.
Week 4. How to undertake a literature review and build on existing research.
Week 5. Significance: Why does my project matter?
Week 6. Supervisory Staff Fair.
Week 7. The ethics of research.
Week 8. Putting it all together into a focused proposal.
Week 9. A session to discuss your project with staff.
Week 10. Completing the accompanying dissertation proposal forms (E.g. Health and safety).

The output of the course is the completion of two pieces of coursework that will develop skills in writing research proposals and planning research projects.
The first piece of coursework is a 1500 word mini research proposal (worth 25%) and due in week 5, which will assess each student¿s ability to complete key aspects of a research proposal, focusing on the sessions in the first half of the course ¿ including stating aims and objectives, forming research questions and developing a methodological framework. Feedback from this formative assessment will then be used to help with the second assessment, which will be a 2500 word full research proposal about the proposed dissertation research ¿ including information about what will be researched, why and how. A final 5% of the overall grade will be awarded based on successful completion of the necessary accompanying forms (E.g. Health and safety, ethics etc.).
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  None
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 196 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) 1 x mini research proposal of 1500 words (25%)
1 x full dissertation research proposal of 2500 words (70%)

Students will produce a full research proposal about their proposed dissertation project. This will consist of an introduction and literature review, research questions, aims and objectives, a methodological framework, and the completed ethics and health and safety forms.
1 x successful completion of accompanying forms (ethics and health and safety) (5%)
Marks for this component will range from 0% to 100% with the latter awarded upon completion of the ethics and health and safety forms at the conclusion of the relevant class session.

Assessment deadlines:
Mini research proposal - Flexible Learning Week (late Feb)
Full dissertation research proposal and accompanying forms - Week 11
Feedback Formative feedback will be given throughout the course via the workshop style sessions, which constitute the majority of contact time. This will be provided by both academic staff and postgraduate tutors. Summative feedback will be conveyed via written comments from the coursework assessments. The first assessment will be an initial attempt at a research proposal, providing students with written feedback designed to help them develop their research ideas and give an indication where they can improve for the final assessment ¿ the full research proposal (2500 words).
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Understand how to produce a research proposal based in the criteria for good research design, and the project structure that is at the core of a dissertation
  2. Understand how to formulate feasible and relevant research questions
  3. Become more confident choosing an appropriate methodological approach and theoretical framework to answer their research question
  4. Have an increased understanding of the function of a literature review in a research proposal
  5. Have an increased knowledge of ethical issues in research projects.
Reading List
Gattrell, A. (1997) Choosing a topic, in: Flowerdew, R. and Martin, D. (ed) Methods in Human Geography ¿ a guide to doing a research project (Longman, Essex).
Chapter 4 of Parsons, T. and Knight, P.G. (1995) How to do your dissertation in Geography and related disciplines (Chapman and Hall, London).
Chapter 2 of Bell, J. (1987) Doing your research project (Open University Press, Milton Keynes).
Chapters 1-3 of Walliman, N. (2004) Your undergraduate dissertation London: Sage.
Planning a research project (Chapter 2). In: Kitchen, R. and Tate, N. (2000) Conducting research in Human Geography Harlow: Prentice Hall. (Useful for both human and physical geography dissertations).
Heywood, I., Cornelius, S., and Carver, S. (2011) An Introduction to Geographical Information Systems, Fourth Edition (Prentice Hall/Pearson, Harlow).
Rogerson, P.A. (2001) Statistical Methods for Geographers, 2nd edition (Sage, London).
Ebdon, D. (1985) Statistics in Geography: A Practical Approach, Second Edition (Wiley, London).
Jones, J.P. and Gomez, B. (2010) Research Methods in Geography: A Critical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, New York).
Clifford, N. and Valentine, G. (2003) Key Methods in Geography (Sage, London).
Cloke, P. et al (2004) Practising Human Geography (Sage Publications, London).
Hoggart, K. et al (2002) Researching Human Geography (Oxford University Press, Oxford).
Haines-Young, R. and Petch, J. (1986) Physical Geography: Its nature and methods (Harper Row, London).
Smith, D.M. (2010) The Politics and Ethics of Research, in: Jones, J.P. and Gomez, B. (Eds) Research Methods in Geography: A Critical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, New York).
Hay, I. (2006) Ethical practice in geographical research. In: Clifford, N. and Valentine,G. (2004) (eds) Key Methods in Geography (Sage, London).
Chapter 11 of Walliman, N. (2004) Your undergraduate dissertation (Sage, London).

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills 1. Develop, design and finalise research proposals.
2. Identify research project topics and formulate research questions appropriate for an undergraduate research project
3. Be able to locate proposed research projects in wider academic literature and critically review relevant literature
4. Identify and describe theories and methods appropriate for a given research question
5. Understand ethical debates in applied research and apply this understanding to ensure research meets ethical standards.
6. Plan and work effectively to meet assignment deadlines.
KeywordsResearch Design,Research Proposal,Literature Reviews,Research Questions,Research Ethics,Method
Course organiserMs Margherita Scazza
Course secretaryMiss Leigh Corstorphine
Tel: (01316) 502572
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