Research Methods for Physical Geography

This module covers the conception and execution of research in Physical Geography. It discusses the philosophical context of research; how data sets are acquired and analysed; and how research is written up into acceptable academic formats. Students choose one of the following projects: 

1. Ecology 
Students will carry out an experimental investigation using the ECOLAB artificial stream facility. The impacts of temperature and other physical and chemical variables on decomposition processes will be studied, with students pooling small group ‘field’ and laboratory observations and carrying out statistical analyses of the class data sets. 

2. Weather and Climate 
Students will perform principal component analysis and cluster analysis on daily meteorological time series at one location. The resulting weather types will then be related statistically to variations in particulate matter concentrations in Birmingham.

By the end of the module students should be able to:

  • Know about the philosophy of science and different approaches to research;
  • Understand the difference between primary and secondary data sets;
  • Know what is good practice in research design and sampling across different areas of Physical Geography;
  • Identify the correct statistical test to evaluate a given research question;
  • Know how to display results in correct graphical and tabular forms; and
  • Conduct fieldwork and analyse a secondary data set.