This coursework assessment is designed to evaluate your ability to design and plan a hypothetical research project in human geography. You will be assessed on your ability to identify a suitable research topic, to develop research questions and (where appropriate) hypotheses which relate to that topic, to identify the data and sources necessary to answer your research questions, and to determine an appropriate methodology for the collection, analysis, and presentation of those data. The assessment will help to satisfy two of the course’s learning outcomes: 1) allowing you to plan and design a rigorous piece of geographical research on a chosen subject; and 2) preparing you to undertake the independent third-year research dissertation.
Asking questions, seeking advice
It is important that all students receive the same level of support and guidance in preparing their coursework. For this reason, this document is designed to be as comprehensive as possible. If, however, you have any questions about the assessment, or wish to seek clarification on any issue, you can post a question on the “Module 2 Coursework Forum” on Moodle. All questions and answers will be visible to students registered on the course, meaning that everyone receives the same information and guidance from the module leader (Dr Innes M. Keighren). Advice will not be given by email—all questions must be posted on the Moodle forum (which will be checked at regular intervals).
Module 2 of GG2001/2: Geographical Techniques II has encouraged you to think through the various stages involved in the design of a research project—from choosing a topic, to identifying the research questions you might wish to ask, to determining how best to answer those questions.
Your task here is to apply that knowledge to the creation of a plan for a piece of research which you (hypothetically speaking) wish to undertake. This assessment requires you to
1. identify a topic or theme (relating in some way to human geography) which you wish to explore;
2. place that topic or theme into context by conducting a literature review (see section 6.5 of the Undergraduate Student Handbook for guidance) to assess the current state of geographical writing and scholarship on that subject;
3. identify a specific problem (or problems) you wish to consider within that larger topic or theme and formulate appropriate research questions;
4. determine what information you require to answer those questions; 5. formulate and describe an appropriate methodology (linking your data sources,
investigative techniques, and analytical procedures) that will allow you to identify,
collect, and make sense of the data; 6. evaluate the relative strengths and weaknesses of your proposed methodology.
Because this is a hypothetical project, you can be as imaginative as you like, but it should nevertheless be a project that is realistically achievable given the following constraints:
you are the primary researcher and are working alone; you have no more than three months of full-time work available to complete the project; you have access only to the equipment you can rent from the department (in terms of camera, voice recorders, etc.); you have no more than £2,500 to spend on travel, accommodation, and other research costs.
Although this assessment does not require you to follow a specific format, the document you produce is expected to contain the following elements
1. an introduction to the project topic or theme (and a justification for your interest in it);
2. a literature review contextualising the project (see section 6.5 of the Undergraduate Student Handbook for guidance);
3. a detailed description of the project’s research questions (and why they might matter to a human geographer);
4. an account of your proposed methodology; 5. an indication of the ways in which you might analyse your data and present and
discuss your findings; 6. a full and correct bibliography (see section 6.8 of the Undergraduate Student
Handbook for guidance).
The following guidelines apply: your report should be presented as a typed document, using 1.5 or 2.0 line spacing and a 12-point font; your report should contain an ample margin (no smaller than 2.54 cm) on all sides, and should be printed on one side of the page only (no double-sided printing, please); your report should be stapled together once in the top left-hand corner and not presented in a file or folder; your report should contain a coversheet (available for download from Moodle).
If you are registered to complete the coursework assessments for both Module 2 and Module 5 of GG2001/2, you should be take care to avoid self-plagiarism (defined in section 7.8.3 of the Undergraduate Student Handbook). Module 2 requires you to plan a piece of hypothetical research; Module 5 to write a report on a short research project you have conducted. Choosing different coursework topics for Module 2 and Module 5 will minimise the risk of inadvertently duplicating or recycling material from one assessment in another.
Your report should be submitted to the departmental office by 12:15 on 25 November 2013. It does not need to be submitted to Turnitin.
Assessment and feedback
Your report will be assessed on its detail, rigour, and logic using the “Grade Descriptors for Fieldwork and Laboratory Reports” outlined in the Undergraduate Student Handbook. Given that your report describes hypothetical rather than actual research, not all criteria will apply. Your ability to formulate sensible and logical research questions, and to position them in relation to current geographical writing through your literature review, will be important. Similarly, your report should make a logical connection between the research questions you devise and the ways in which you propose to answer them. There must, in that sense, be a clearly-defined link between your research questions and the methods of data collection and analysis you propose to employ. Finally, your capacity to anticipate the problems or opportunities which your chosen methods and techniques might bring—in terms of their potential strengths and weaknesses—will be an important component of the assessment.
The following criteria will apply to the assessment of the individual elements of your report:
1. Identification of a suitable research topic a. Choice of research topic is clearly stated; b. Relevance and/or importance of topic is clearly explained; c. Topic is related to current geographical debates and/or literature.
2. Development of appropriate research questions a. Research questions logically defined and clearly stated; b. Research questions situated within relevant literature; c. Research questions related clearly to human geography.
3. Description of methodology a. Framework for answering research questions is clearly stated; b. Sources and data necessary to answer questions identified; c. Choice of sampling strategy defined and justified; d. Selection of investigative technique(s) clearly explained; e. Strategy for analysing and presenting findings detailed in depth.
4. Evaluation of strengths and weaknesses of research design a. Any potential limitations or biases identified; b. Reasons for confidence in the proposed plan described; c. Alternative approaches to answering research questions identified.
You can expect to receive written feedback on your report by 13 January 2014. You will receive a combination of quantitative and qualitative feedback which will be designed to:
1. give you a sense of how well you performed in the individual components of the assessment;
2. indicate your report’s specific areas of strength and weakness; 3. offer suggestions as to what you might wish to do differently (or the same) in similar
future work. You will also receive a literal grade (i.e., a letter grade) rather than a percentage grade. This will give you a sense of how well you have done. Your work will not be allocated its final percentage grade until it has been subject to moderation as part of the Exam Board in the third term of academic year 2013/14.
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