Taught course

Geography (Research Methods)

Durham University · Department of Geography

Entry requirements

A Bachelors degree or higher in an arts or social science subject, of the required standard, to train in preparation for studying for the PhD.

This course is partly taught and partly research-based and, if University conditions are met, leads to graduation with an MA degree. It is an approved course of the UK's Economic and Social Research Council. Full-time students must study for one year.

Months of entry


Course content

The MA in Geography (Research Methods) provides a thorough grounding in the practical and theoretical techniques used in both social sciences and the study of human geography.

Recognised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the course combines skills training with opportunities to reflect on relevant personal experience, which you will then be encouraged to draw on in further study. Learning takes place in small groups in a supportive environment and focuses on discussion and debate around current issues in the field.

Core modules, developed and delivered by specialist academics in line with the ESRC's requirements, range from philosophy and theory in contemporary human geography to interdisciplinary perspectives and practices across social research. You also choose from a selection of optional modules in topics such as advanced ethnographic research, multilevel modelling and computational social sciences as well as completing a dissertation in an area of interest.

Facilities in the Department have benefitted from around £2m of investment in recent years. They include well-equipped laboratories, a workshop, an extensive field equipment store and a cartographic unit, all managed by a team of skilled technical staff.

The course is one of a suite of methods-based postgraduate degrees delivered by departments from across the University. It enables you to immerse yourself in a vibrant and enthusiastic postgraduate community which provides a social, as well as academic, experience. We operate a ‘buddy system’ which brings together new postgraduate researchers with more experienced researchers who will be able to give you advice, information and support.

Outside of scheduled learning time there are further opportunities to attend departmental events and talks and take part in the annual research conference.

Course structure

Core modules:

Philosophy and Theory in Contemporary Human Geography provides an in-depth knowledge of some of the key trends in philosophical thought and theory in contemporary human geography. This module also sharpens your abilities to evaluate and critically appraise such trends.

Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Practices across Social Research introduces you to the nature of contemporary social scientific research and its methods of practice. You will look at the issues associated with studying social complexity and consider the ethical issues in the conduct of social research, including issues of power and equality.

Research Frontiers in Human Geography looks at Durham University’s own work into some of the emerging research in human geography and develops your awareness of the wide range of research and opinion in the subject. Your skills in the critical analysis and the communication of research will also be enhanced.

Quantitative Methods and Analysis is designed to develop your knowledge, critical understanding and skills in quantitative data analysis. You will understand how to use statistical techniques for the exploration and description of data sets and make appropriate statistical inferences about associations between social phenomena.

Qualitative Methods and Analysis equips you to understand and assess qualitative social sciences research, including different approaches to research and design and analysis of qualitative data.

Using Geographical Skills and Techniques provides applied training in the use of geographic techniques with the aim of enabling you to develop a set of transferable skills that are relevant to your professional and personal development. It explores some of the issues involved in the design and conduct of working with geographic information; and provides hands-on experience working with data sources and methods in a human-geography context.

The Dissertation is the chance for you to undertake a substantial piece of scholarship into an area of interest to you and develop a sound understanding of applying the right research tools and methods.

Examples of optional modules:

  • Advanced Ethnographic Research
  • Multilevel Modelling
  • Simulating Data in R
  • Systematic Review
  • Advanced Statistics for Psychology and the Behavioural Sciences
  • Computational Social Science
  • Participatory Action Research

Information for international students

If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take a pre-Masters pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students

For further information see the course listing.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MA
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details