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Module DXX-2000:
GIS & Research Methods

Module Facts

Run by School of Natural Sciences

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 2

Organiser: Mr Ian Harris

Overall aims and purpose

The module aims to support honours project planning and encourage critical thinking about the research process.

The module introduces Geographical Information Systems and spatial data, statistical techniques, plus the methods and approaches students will need for their final year honours project. Students will complete short exercises to evaluate their understanding of the methods and tools covered in lectures and practical sessions. The main task is to choose and produce a literature review / plan for the final year honours project, together with a risk assessment and an ethical evaluation.

Course content

Geographical Information Systems: data types, raster and vector data; primary sources, data capture; secondary data sources, data providers; data export formats and data translation; data projections, OSGB and WGS84 lat long; Global Positioning System (GPS), position fixing; organisation of spatial data; Structured Query Language (SQL); geoprocessing, overlay and boolean data, spatial sampling, modelling and analytical approaches; potential uses of GIS utilising a range of examples.

Statistics: principles of hypothesis generation, sampling, study design, spatial methods, 1 and 2 way ANOVA for completely randomised designs; 1 factor randomised block ANOVA; correlation coefficient; simple and multiple linear regression; social research methods.

Computer-based data manipulation, analysis and presentation.

Qualitative survey methods.

Literature review.

Evidence Synthesis (including systematic review and systematic mapping of research, critical appraisal of research and options for data synthesis).

Students will be encouraged to develop effective learning skills including: production of a honours project proposal; communication skills; and time management.

Assessment Criteria


Grade D- to D+ Able to perform the specified analyses within the tasks set. Relevant results included but may not be well summarised or presented. Some literature used to place the assessment in context and provide a rationale but may be incomplete and include irrelevant material. Appropriate statistical methods used but some errors in application. Discussion shows some, but incomplete recognition of limitations of the research. Honours project research objectives stated but may be imprecise. Literature review contains appropriate materials, but synthesis limited. Methods largely reproducible, but may be vague in places and not fully address the research objectives. Structure follows conventions but within section structure lacks order. Substantial changes may need to be made to the proposal before the honours project research can begin.


Grade C- to B+ Able to relate the analysis to the questions being asked within the tasks set. Good summary of results with some minor imperfections in presentation. Appropriate statistical methods used and applied with only minor errors. Good discussion recognising any limitations of the research. Clear statement of honours project research objectives. Good survey of the available literature with appropriate synthesis, providing context and rationale. Methods proposed are clear, reproducible and fully address the research objectives. Good structure. Minor changes may need to be made to the research before honours project research can begin.


Grade A- and above Able to relate the analysis to the question being asked, including a demonstration of the understanding of the underlying assumptions. Results are presented to a high standard. Excellent use of appropriate statistical methods. Excellent discussion recognising limitations of the research and proposing alternative approaches for the future. Clear statement of coherent honours project research objectives. Excellent literature review providing a synthesis, context and rationale for the research. Methods proposed are clear, reproducible and fully address the research objectives. Structure near flawless. Only very minor changes may be required before the honours project research can begin.

Learning outcomes

  1. Be able to use a desktop Geographical Information System (ArcGIS ) to display and manipulate different forms of spatial data

  2. Be able to effectively carry out field methods and data collection

  3. Be able to select and apply appropriate methods for the analysis of data

  4. Be able to describe and communicate research findings

  5. Be able to generate appropriate research hypotheses / research objectives

  6. Understand the ethical implications of their proposed research

  7. Be able to complete a risk assessment

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
COURSEWORK Hon Project Risk Assessment 10
COURSEWORK GIS Map Exercise 15
COURSEWORK Questionnaire Survey 15
COURSEWORK Sampling or Interview exercise 20
COURSEWORK Vegetation survey or Town condition audit 10
COURSEWORK Project Plan 30

Teaching and Learning Strategy


17 x 1 hour and 1 x 2 hour lectures

Practical classes and workshops

6*2 hour GIS practicals (F8 / F9 Thoday)

Practical classes and workshops

31.5 hour and 13 hour quantitative data practicals (F8 / F9 Thoday)


2*3 hour field visits (Henfaes / Bangor)

Private study

Private and self-guided study


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Numeracy - Proficiency in using numbers at appropriate levels of accuracy
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Safety-Consciousness - Having an awareness of your immediate environment, and confidence in adhering to health and safety regulations
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team

Subject specific skills

  • Develop and identify research question(s) and/or hypotheses as the basis for investigation.
  • Conduct fieldwork and/or laboratory work competently with awareness of appropriate risk assessment and ethical considerations
  • Consider issues from a range of interdisciplinary perspectives.
  • Apply subject knowledge to the understanding and addressing of problems.
  • Collect, analyse and interpret primary and/or secondary data using appropriate qualitative and/or quantitative techniques.
  • Awareness of the concepts of spatial and temporal scale in understanding processes and relationships.
  • Appreciation of the reciprocal nature of human-environmental relationships.
  • Apply appropriate techniques for presenting spatial and/or temporal trends in data.
  • Employ appropriate social-survey methods.
  • Preparation of effective maps, diagrams and visualizations.
  • Appreciation of the complexity and diversity of life processes through the study of organisms.
  • Understand the provisional nature of information and appreciate competing and alternative explanations.
  • Recognize the moral, ethical and social issues relating to the subject.
  • Collect and record data generated by a diverse range of methods.
  • Demonstrate awareness of the importance of risk assessment and relevant legislation


Pre- and Co-requisite Modules

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses: