MSc Environmental Governance / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Doing Environmental Research

Course unit fact file
Unit code GEOG70472
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This is a dissertation support course unit that leads students to a supervised, active preparation of their dissertation projects. Students receive skills training in respect to all aspects of the dissertation research process, including topic selection, literature review, research design, methods, planning, ethics and risk assessment. Students are required to actively participate in group sessions on bibliography and research methods. One part of the course is delivered via one-to-one sessions with the unit convener, and in the second half of the course meetings are organized with the dissertation supervisor to further develop and refine the dissertation project.


  1. To familiarise students with planning and designing of a coherent and feasible dissertation project
  2. To advance their skills for writing and effectively communicating a dissertation proposal 
  3. To train students to design and present a poster based on their dissertation project

Teaching and learning methods

The unit is delivered through group and one-to-one sessions, via a mix of lectures, workshops and presentations. All material is available on Blackboard. Formative feedback will be provided on dissertation ideas through one-to-one meetings with the unit convener, followed by three meetings with the dissertation supervisor.

Formative feedback will also be provided through in-class presentations, from peers and staff.

Students will also receive training from the Media Services on designing academic conference posters, to support the second stage of the assessment.

Knowledge and understanding

- Understand how to conceptualise and plan feasible research projects;
- Display evidence of understanding the requirements of writing a dissertation proposal;
- Explain in depth the nature of a chosen issue and its relevance to the field of study and to the relevant published literature;

Intellectual skills

• Identify and evaluate academic literature sources

• Make connections between theoretical arguments and real-world cases

• Abstract and synthesise relevant information

• Justify a chosen research topic through use of academic sources

Practical skills

• Become familiar with databases and search tools for identifying appropriate academic literature

• Have improved skills for designing and writing research proposals

• Gain advance skills for effectively communicating the aims, methods and objectives of a research proposal

• Plan a research project from start to end

Transferable skills and personal qualities

• Design and deliver oral presentations in a clear manner

• Communicate effectively with public and private organisations where appropriate

• Work independently.

Assessment methods

Critical Annotated Bibliography          1500 words                  40%

Dissertation Proposal Poster              A1 format                     60%



Feedback methods

Critical annotated bibliography:

Within 15 working days via turnitin; summary cohort feedback on Critical Annotated Bibliography delivered in-class

Dissertation proposal poster:

Within 15 working days via turnitin; formative feedback at poster presentation session from course staff, dissertation supervisors, and other staff and PGRs


In addition to the written summative feedback, students have an opportunity to engage in several stages of formative feedback prior to submitting both assignments. One-to-one sessions are organised to discuss initial ideas for the dissertation topic and the associated academic literature. Then, students receive oral feedback on their in-class presentations on bibliography and research questions and methods. The preparation of the research proposal poster (the 2nd assignment) is organised in several stages. Small group poster design workshops are organised with the Media Centre where students are provided with technical training to learn how to design and prepare a poster. Students subsequently present their posters at a group exhibition. This is a departmental event where all PG students present their dissertation research proposal. This is a good opportunity for students to publically present their work and receive feedback from academics and colleagues.

Recommended reading

Castree, N., Demeritt, D., Liverman, D. and Rhoads, B. (2016). Companion to Environmental Geography. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Clifford, N. and Valentine, G. (2003/2010/2016), Key Methods in Geography, London: Sage.

Cloke, P., Cook, I., Crang, P., Goodwin, M., Painter, J., and Philo, C. (2004). Practising Human Geography. London: Sage.

Denzin, N. K., & Lincoln, Y. S. (Eds.). (2005/2017). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. London: Sage.

Flick, U., Kardorff, von, E., & Steinke, I. (2004). A Companion to Qualitative Research.‎ London: Sage.

Flowerdew, R. and Martin, D. (eds.) (2005) Methods in Human Geography: A Guide for Students Doing a Research Project Second Edition , Harlow, UK, Pearson

Gomes, B. and Jones III, J. P. (2010). Research Methods in Geography. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.

Holmes, H. and Hall, S. M. (2020). Mundane Methods: Innovative Ways to Research the Everyday. Manchester: Manchester University Press

May, T (2003) Social Research: Issues, Methods and Process. Buckingham: Open University Press. (earlier editions are also good)

Silverman, D (2009/2017) Doing Qualitative Research, London: Sage.

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 22
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Mark Usher Unit coordinator

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