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Last modified: 28 Jun 2018 10:27

Course Overview

This year-long core course is designed to give Joint Honours students an advanced introduction to the history, philosophy and methodology of the earth and environmental sciences.  The first part examines key conceptual debates and innovations.  Topics include: the discovery of ‘deep time’, the development of ideas about ice ages, the ‘quantitative revolution’ in physical geography post-1945, the importance of digital technologies and the influence of environmentalism.  The second part, designed to support students’ own project work, addresses the implications for research: e.g., the possibilities and pitfalls of different qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Course Details

Study Type Undergraduate Level 3
Session Full Year Credit Points 15 credits (7.5 ECTS credits)
Campus None. Sustained Study No
  • Dr Nicholas Spedding

Qualification Prerequisites


What courses & programmes must have been taken before this course?

  • Either BSc Archaeology-Geography (Studied) or BSc Geography-Geoscience (Studied)
  • Any Undergraduate Programme (Studied)

What other courses must be taken with this course?


What courses cannot be taken with this course?

  • GG3031 Approaches to Geography (Studied)
  • GG3063 Approaches to Geography (Joint Programmes) (Studied)
  • GG3071 Approaches to Geography (Studied)
  • GG3564 Research Design and Methods (Studied)
  • GG3566 Research Design and Methods (Joint Programmes) (Studied)
  • GG3571 Research Design (Studied)
  • GG3572 Research Design (Studied)
  • GG3573 Research Design (Studied)
  • GG3574 Research Design (Studied)

Are there a limited number of places available?


Course Description

This course is designed to introduce students to key debates, both past and present, on the nature and scope of the earth and environmental sciences. As such it provides essential background for study of physical geography/geosciences at an advanced level. Content will include key aspects of the history of the earth and environmental sciences (e.g., the discovery of "deep time", the development of ideas about ice ages, the impact of evolutionary theory, the quantitative revolution in physical geography post-1945, the importance of digital technologies, the influence of environmentalism). We relate these to important concepts used to structure explanation in the earth sciences (e.g., uniformitarianism, historical approaches vs. process studies, systems and models). The last third of the course addresses the implications for research (e.g., the possibilities and pitfalls of different qualitative and quantitative approaches).

Further Information & Notes

This course may not be taken as part of a graduating curriculum with GG 3031 or GG 3071.

Contact Teaching Time

Information on contact teaching time is available from the course guide.

Teaching Breakdown

More Information about Week Numbers

Details, including assessments, may be subject to change until 31 August 2023 for 1st half-session courses and 22 December 2023 for 2nd half-session courses.

Summative Assessments

1st Attempt: Coursework (67%): one seminar presentation, first half-session (33%); one research practical exercise, second half-session (33%); one 1-hour written examination in January (33%). Resit: Original coursework carried forward (67%) plus one 2-hour written examination (33%). Under exceptional circumstances, resubmission of failed coursework components, with mark for those components to be capped at CAS 9.

Formative Assessment

There is no stand-alone, formal formative assessment. However, the course includes a dedicated introductory session on reading, writing and talking Honours geography. Feedback on summative assessments should help students to improve their subsequent performances within the course and for follow-up second half-session courses.


Students receive individual, written feedback on their coursework using standard comments sheets. We also provide whole-class feedback via MyAberdeen. This includes the main points of answers/tutors' mark schemes to encourage students to review where they gained and lost marks.

Course Learning Outcomes


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