METHODS IN PHYSICAL GEOGRAPHY
Dr J.R. Thompson (Convenor), Prof. J.R French and Dr H. Burningham
Unit 0.5 Year 2 Term 1
GEOG 2002 Methods in Physical Geography is based around a one-week residential field class supported by preparatory and follow-up lectures / practicals. The field class will take place during the reading week of the first term. At the time of writing the location of the field class will be the s’Albufereta Natural Reserve and s'Albufera Natural Park and surroundings, Northeast Mallorca. This is, however, subject to final confirmation by the Reserve / Park authorities.
GEOG 2002 Methods in Physical Geography has several objectives. At the broadest level we hope students will gain an appreciation of the complexity and dynamic nature of the physical environment through direct contact, field monitoring, laboratory and computer based analysis. It is also anticipated that students’ understanding of physical and environmental processes will improve through the investigations they carry out. The course will develop skills in research design, data acquisition and analysis, oral presentation and writing up.
At the end of the course students will have been trained to design, implement and write up a research project. There will also be training in the following areas:
Cognitive Skills: Data analysis, critical thinking, hypothesis testing, complex problem solving.
Specialist Skills: Depends upon project but includes research design, fieldwork and laboratory skills including the use of a range of field and laboratory equipment, computer based analysis including the use of GIS, numerical and analytical modelling and multivariate statistics.
Personal Skills: Group work, oral presentation, report writing, time management.
The course is assessed by a 3,500 word written report, individually prepared, accounting for 90% of the assessment. Group presentations during the field class account for the remaining 10% of the assessment.
Projects are usually undertaken in groups of 3-5 students depending upon the number of students registered for the course. Although project areas are defined by academic staff, students are responsible for the finalisation of an effective research design and for planning their activity during the field class. In planning the project work the following questions should be considered:
- What are you going to measure?
- How and where will you take your measurements?
- How will these data meet your objectives?
A project plan should include:
- A sampling strategy.
- Plans for the installation of field instrumentation and / or sample collection.
- Identification of and familiarisation with equipment needed for field measurements and laboratory analysis.
- Provision for error checking and determination of confidence intervals.
- Provision for sensitivity analysis.
- Time management.
- Contingency-planning for when things go wrong.
- Data analysis and/or modelling techniques suitable for the information collected.
The Project Write-Up
We expect high quality, 3,500 word, individually produced, write-ups of the projects. These write-ups account for 90% of the course assessment and should take the form of a scientific paper in an appropriate peer reviewed journal. They should include:
1. An abstract and keywords.
2. An introduction, which should include reference to relevant literature.
3. A site description.
4. A methods section, which details the research design.
9. Appendices (as required).
Each group will present their work in a 20-minute oral presentation at the end of the field class. Presentations are assessed and will contribute 10% of the course assessment. The assessment of the presentations will include the following criteria:
- Did all members of the group participate in the presentation?
- What was the quality of the oral and visual aspects of the presentation?
- Was there sufficient explanation of the experimental design and methods employed?
- Was the presentation coherent and well structured?
Co-requisite Courses, Applications and Booking Requirements
GEOG 2002 Methods in Physical Geography is designed for students with a demonstrated interest in physical and environmental geography. They should normally be taking at least three other physical geography courses in the second year from the following list: GEOG 2005, GEOG 2007, GEOG 2008, GEOG 2020, GEOG 2021 and GEOG 2026 and intending to undertake a physical geography dissertation in the third year. Students who apply for GEOG 2002 without appropriate supporting courses will be contacted to request that they revise their course choices. Students must submit a written justification to the Departmental Office by 12pm on 30th May 2013 (maximum 200 words) justifying their interest in the course.
Following a review of supporting courses and justifications field course participants will be sent via Email an electronic form to complete with passport and emergency contact information. This must be returned immediately since this information will be required to make bookings. Flights and accommodation will not be booked for individuals who do not return this information. In order to ensure flights and accommodation are available and to benefit from cheaper flights when booked in advance, the Department will have to purchase flights and pay for accommodation during the summer using student numbers based on Course Selection Day returns and the passport details provided by participants. Therefore students who withdraw from the course will be liable for any non-recoverable costs incurred by the Department. For similar reasons there will be limited opportunities for students to transfer onto the course at the beginning of the autumn term.