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GEO8020 : Research Dissertation in Environmental Geoscience

  • Offered for Year: 2022/23
  • Module Leader(s): Dr Maarten van Hardenbroek van Ammerstol
  • Owning School: Geography, Politics & Sociology
  • Teaching Location: Newcastle City Campus
Semester 1 Credit Value: 30
Semester 2 Credit Value: 40
Semester 3 Credit Value: 50
ECTS Credits: 60.0


The aims of the module are:
1.       To allow students to undertake original research in any aspect of Environmental Geoscience.
2.       To produce a research dissertation which is of publishable quality.
3.       To design and implement a research project, from start to finish.
4.       To apply advanced methods to research questions within Environmental Geoscience.
5.       To develop advanced scientific writing skills.

Outline Of Syllabus

The module focus is a research dissertation of publishable quality. Semester 1 will be used to develop project ideas, with input from relevant staff. During Semester 2 and 3, students will be allocated a mentor and will focus on data analysis and dissertation writing. Students will have a minimum of 6 structured interactions per year with their mentor. Dependent on the project topic, students may have more than one mentor and may split their meetings between these mentors as they see fit. The proposed structure is as follows:

Semester 1
•       When applying, students will submit a research statement, which outlines their interests and potential ideas for the MRes. The student must find a mentor who is happy to mentor the project. During the first semester, students will use this as a basis for developing ideas for their research dissertation, with input from relevant members of staff. Students may change topic from their original proposal, as they read and develop their ideas, but need to find a member of staff to mentor the project. Taught modules will feed into this process.

•       Students will submit a project proposal in December. This will contribute 5% of the final module mark and has a word limit of 2000 words. Feedback will be provided, so that students can develop their projects.

•       During Semester 1, students will attend a set of three, 1-hour seminars. These will focus on : 1) the module structure & expectations; 2) an instruction on how to write a project proposal; and 3) how to apply for a PhD.

•       Students will also attend a 1 hour drop-in session for the proposal, timed for late November, and will have a short progress check in mid November.

Semester 2 & 3
•       During Semesters 2 and 3, students will focus predominantly on the research dissertation and will be allocated their mentor(s), based on their project proposal. Students may take optional modules in Semester 2, as the timing of optional modules will depend on timetabling.
•       Students will work on their project, with guidance from mentors during regular meetings. The onus will be on the student to organise these meetings regularly and/or when any major decisions are made about the project.
•       Students will have three, one-hour sessions on how to write their dissertation. Each session will focus on 1-2 main sections of the dissertation and make use of past examples. These will be supported, by a one hour drop in session, which provides the opportunity for students to ask questions specific to writing the thesis.
•       Contingent on COVID restrictions, both from the university and/or the government, students are welcome to conduct fieldwork as part of the project, but this must be done early enough in the programme for it to be included in the research dissertation. Students undertaking fieldwork may be asked to submit an alternative research dissertation plan, to prepare for the event of COVID restrictions disrupting fieldwork or causing it to be cancelled altogether.
•       As a minimum, supervisors are expected to read one full draft of the thesis.
•       The full draft must be submitted to supervisors by mid-July, for comments to be provided.
•       Students will submit their research dissertation in mid-August, for examination.
•       The full draft must be submitted to supervisors by mid-July, for comments to be provided.
•       Students will submit their research dissertation in mid-August, for examination.

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching81:008:00Sessions on proposal and dissertation writing, and drop-in sessions - PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision61:006:00Meetings with project mentors - PiP
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesDissertation/project related supervision10:150:15Progress check - PiP
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study11185:451185:45N/A
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

The programme is strongly research focused, so the students are expected to spend a substantial amount of time in independent study. We will provide 6 structured interactions with project mentor(s), through the year. This will provide students with the support they need to develop their projects, in line with the learning outcomes above. The three seminars in Semester 1 will provide an overview of the course, of proposal writing and PhD applications. The students will then have a progress checkpoint in mid-November, via an individual meeting with the DPD. There will be a proposal drop-in session 1-2 weeks before the hand-in, for students to ask questions relating to the proposal. Proposal development will be supported by students using staff office hours to discuss and develop their projects.

In Semester 2, there will be three, bi-weekly sessions on how to write the main sections of the dissertation. These will draw on past examples, to allow the students to actively learn, and enable them to deliver their research dissertations. The taught sessions will be supported by a 1-hour drop-in session which allows students to ask questions and discuss dissertation development. These sessions also provide a check point for progress with dissertation writing.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Research proposal1M5Proposal for research dissertation
Dissertation3M95Original research dissertation
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The rationale for the assessment is that the degree is strongly research focused, meaning that a research dissertation is the most appropriate method of assessment. It will provide the students with the skills and knowledge identified in the learning outcomes (e.g. ability to design and develop an original research project). This method of assessment is the standard for research masters within environmental science. We also include a 5% project proposal, so that students can get feedback on their research dissertation ideas, before investing too much time. This provides an important checkpoint for both students and mentors. This assessment will also allow us to identify students who may be struggling or pursuing an idea that will not work, which will reduce issues in Semesters 2 and 3. Furthermore, this approach mirrors the assessment for a PhD, whereby students must complete progression report after 1 year, in order to continue, and therefore prepares the students well for further research degrees.

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