Key Approaches in Physical Geography

Module code: 708SC
Level 7 (Masters)
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Not yet finalised
Assessment modes: Coursework, Report

No other discipline in the environmental and earth sciences could claim the diversity of research themes and practices as Physical Geography.

From the highly technical, the applied and policy-orientated, to the theoretically rich and philosophical, and from the past through the present to the future, physical geography research – including at Sussex – embraces all possible worlds.

Through a series of reading-led seminars, this module will introduce the student to some of the debates at the critical cutting edge of physical geographical scholarship pertinent to ongoing research in the ‘Climate Science and Society’ and ‘Applied Geomorphology’ research clusters, as well as exploring natural research syntheses with other disciplines and sub-fields (for example, sustainability, biogeography and development).

Each week a different member of faculty will lead discussion on their area of research, introducing questions of literature review, methodology, application and epistemology.

Alongside reading foundational texts and/or work in progress, discussions will focus on exploring how theory and evidence combine in critical geographical research.

In the second half of the term, you will be given the opportunity to read and critically review a set of real grant proposals and take part in a mock grant review panel. This will not only provide a hands-on appreciation of the assessment and grading process associated with research bids, but also help to develop critical appraisal skills in an environment where you will also learn directly from your peers.

The final weeks of term will be devoted to research project formulation workshops. In so doing, the module will expose you to geographical debates, profile the diversity of research processes and practices at Sussex, and begin the process of project formulation for the extended research project in the final term.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate a well-grounded and broadly-based knowledge and critical understanding of both scholarly and methodological approaches in physical and environmental geography
  • Critically discuss, review and synthesise contemporary geographical research issues within the broad field of physical and environmental geography
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and critical awareness of the challenges associated with data collection and be able to evaluate the accuracy and precision of a range of field, laboratory and desktop techniques
  • Contextualise and appraise the key contributions of a new piece of geographical research and communicate this effectively to both specialist and non-specialist audiences
  • Critically evaluate a range of research approaches and methodologies in order to design an original research project that addresses defined challenges in physical and environmental geography