Geography MA/MSc (by Research)


Fact file

MA/MSc (by Research) Geography
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Entry requirements
2:1 (or international equivalent)
6.5 (no less than 6.0 in any element) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available
Start date
Economic Worlds
Other requirements
You will need a research proposal, two academic references and academic transcripts

Research overview

These programmes enable you to conduct in-depth research into a science or social science focused aspect of geography.

They are aimed at students who wish to focus primarily on achieving a research-based masters-level qualification.

With close support and guidance from subject-specialist academics, MA (by Research) students typically conduct in-depth research in human geography (social science, arts and humanities aspects of geography), while MSc (by Research) students focus on a scientific or technological aspect of geography.

You will benefit from being part of a world-leading, research-intensive school, spending time on a topic of your choice while enhancing your research skills and subject expertise.

Our culture of interdisciplinary study and knowledge transfer enables us to generate high-impact research that influences government public policy, private enterprise and third sector organisations.

If you think you may want to upgrade your qualification to a PhD, you might consider MRes/(Sc) MRes Geography.

Course details

You will complete a supervised dissertation worth up to 180 credits and can replace up to 60 of those credits with optional taught modules across our wide-ranging portfolio of modules. This will also reduce the maximum number of words permitted for the dissertation element of the course.


View optional examples...
Approaches to Landscape

This module provides an introduction to recent research on landscape, drawing on studies and materials from several disciplines. 

Areas of research considered include landscape in cultural geography, and landscape and the arts and humanities. The module considers historical and contemporary evidence under each of these headings and allows a critical assessment of both empirical research and underlying theory.

Critical Human Geography

The module introduces you to a range of philosophical approaches and current research themes within human geography. It enables you to integrate questions of theory and empirical research, each stage of the module stressing the philosophy underpinning the research under discussion, and the cultural and political contexts of the research.

Key thematic issues structure the module, including geographical understandings of culture and economy, and the geographies of nature. Each section of the module integrates historical and contemporary understanding, emphasising the distinctive contribution made by human geography in thinking spatially, while at the same time highlighting geography's relationship to the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. 

Dissertation: Environmental Management

This module will require you to research an environmental issue of your own choice under the supervision of an appropriate member of staff and to report your findings in the form of a written dissertation (12,000 words).

Key skills developed include those of independent study, critical analysis and report writing.

Dissertation: Geographical Information Science

The module involves you undertaking an individual research project in the field of Geographical Information Science.

You are required to identify a research question, set this within the academic context, develop a suitable methodology, execute the programme of work, evaluate the results, draw logical conclusions and present the project in the form of a dissertation.

Dissertation: Human Geography

Building directly on the work undertaken in the Research Design module, this module requires you to write a substantive research dissertation on a subject chosen following discussion with a nominated supervisor. The dissertation will be 20,000 words in length.

Dissertation: Landscape and Culture

This dissertation represents the culmination of the Landscape and Culture MA. You are required to submit a dissertation within 12 months of your initial registration.

The precise nature of the dissertation (the empirical content and theoretical perspectives) will obviously vary, but all dissertations must be a substantial research-based document on a specific topic that will have been discussed and approved by a nominated supervisor from within the teaching team on this course early in semester two. 

Meetings between students and supervisors will take place regularly from the beginning of semester two until the main period of research and data collection during the summer. A minimum of five supervisions will take place. You are also advised about the required format of the dissertation.

Environment, Development and Livelihoods

This module investigates key links between development, livelihood and environmental problems in the global South, with particular reference to competition and conflict over environmental resources.

Attention is placed on exploring livelihood-environment interactions from the perspectives of different income, gender and community groups and contrasting their everyday realities with key development concepts and aggregate statistics. 

Environmental Management in Practice

The module will introduce you to a range of approaches to environmental management and their use in practice within government and non-governmental agencies and the private sector. Approaches covered could include:

  • tendering for projects in the context of environmental consultancy
  • environmental management practices
  • participatory approaches to environmental policy and planning
Environmental Management Tutorial

This module will cover the following:

  • referencing and searching for literature
  • reading and note-taking
  • review writing skills
  • approaches to group working
  • presentation skills
  • critical review of environmental paradigms
  • writing a literature review paper
  • philosophies of research design
  • selecting an appropriate environmental management research topic
  • preparation of a dissertation proposal
Environment, Space and Society

This module is split into a number of sections following an opening session which introduces the different ways in which human geography engages with environmental issues. Indicative content of the remaining sessions include:

  • environmental history
  • environmental knowledge and governance
  • environmental activism
  • economy and environment

These issues are also explored through a day field visit.

Foundations of Environmental Management

The module provides a foundation for the scientific concepts and issues which underpin environmental management.

Topics covered include:

  • climate-change impacts and mitigation
  • river channel processes and management
  • pure and applied research on biodiversity patterns
  • the science of risk-based contaminated land management
Geographical Research Methods

This module is split into three major sections:

  • Quantitative Methods: An introduction to parametric and non-parametric statistics and the use of databases and statistical packages.
  • Social Research Methods: An introduction to the philosophical and analytical issues that lie behind designing social research methods. A range of social research methods are considered in terms of their approach, design, implementation and analysis.
  • GIS: An introduction to the technologies of GIS. It covers the design and operation of these systems and how they are used as decision support tools. The material also covers the concept of modelling and what issues the user must be aware of in evaluating model outputs.
Geospatial Technologies: Mobile, Augmented and Virtual

Information across a wide range of applications in society and the research agenda that is underpinning these developments. We will explore the use of location-aware mobile devices and techniques for geo-visualisation that are visually immersive and interactive. Content is organised as follows:

Part I: Digital Geographic Information in the public domain
Here we consider how a convergence of technologies (positioning, communication and processing) has allowed digital geographic information to make an impact 'beyond the desktop' at both a global scale through the web, and at a personal scale via the mobile device. This includes Virtual Globes, 'open' and 'linked' geographic information, Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI), Location Based Services, and mobile geospatial apps.

Part II: Virtual Geographic Environments
Here we look at the role and impact of multi-dimensional geographic visualisation to support decision making, environmental impact assessment, and the communication of spatial context. This includes animation and 3D graphics, advances in data capture, urban and rural landscape visualisation, interaction design and immersion, Augmented and Virtual Realities.

Project Management and Environmental Legislation

This module will develop your understanding of the principles of project management and land related environmental legislation. The lectures will focus on:

  • the management organisation of projects and the roles taken by individuals in the management structure
  • the management of change, quality and risk
  • time and resource management techniques
  • project selection strategies
  • project finance
  • evaluating the legal context of land contamination related liability
Quaternary Environments

This module covers the following:

Semester one - High Latitudes and Palaeoecology

  • Lectures: Introduction to oceans as drivers of climate change; Antarctica/Southern Ocean including Biological Pump; the Arctic; the Mid Pleistocene Transition; Lake Baikal
  • Lectures: Palaeoecology; Multivariate statistics andtransfer functions
  • Practicals: Diatom microscopy (Swinnerton Laboratory); Computer practical on transfer functions

Semester two - Low Latitudes with a Mediterranean focus

  • Lectures: Introduction to Mediterranean and low latitude climates; Mediterranean Ocean history; Lakes and caves: Glacial-interglacial change and Holocene change; People and the environment in the eastern Mediterranean
  • Lectures: Isotopes in the hydrological cycle (source to geological sink); Isotope archives and coursework intro
  • Computer Practical: GNIP data analysis and Proxy System Models
Research Design A

The module takes the form of weekly seminars, in which the following core topics are covered:

  • Introduction to research design
  • Research ethics
  • Writing strategies
  • Research plans for dissertations
  • Positionality and reflexivity
Research Design B

This module provides an introduction to research design skills and core topics covered include:

  • introduction to research design
  • research ethics
  • writing strategies
  • research plans for dissertations
  • positionality and reflexivity

Small group teaching is an integral component of the module.

Space and Social Theory

The module provides an introduction to space and social theory. The module will provide an introduction to a range of theoretical approaches within the social sciences, that have influenced research in human geography. The module will focus upon the work of some of the following (and others), and its relationship to geographical research:

  • Haraway
  • Harvey
  • Foucault
  • Latour
  • Said
  • Comte
  • Polanyi
Spatial Decision Making

The first part of the module covers the theory and practice of utilising Geographical Information Systems (GIS) for supporting spatial decision making. It reflects upon the broader discipline of Geographical Information Science (GI Science) before considering the importance of data quality, key spatial analysis tools and visualisation techniques.

The second part of the module extends the skills and knowledge gained in part one by applying them to a real world problem supplied by an external client (Experian). Students will work in teams by responding to an invitation to tender, then developing a GIS-based solution to a problem supplied by Experian which will typically involve evaluating alternative locations for retail developments around Nottingham.

Teams will plan their own meetings, manage the division of workload and ensure they are meeting the requirements of the client (but also exploring further possibilities that the client may not have considered).




Key facts



Library facilities

The Hallward Library stocks all of the major geography publications and journals. Our library facilities open long hours and include areas for group work, individual and silent study.

Graduate School

Representing the needs of postgraduate students across the University, the Graduate School provides research training and development for postgraduates and early career researchers.

You will have access to a dedicated space on University Park, which includes computer stations, Wi-Fi, study and social areas, and kitchen facilities.


Research support

Research seminars

Postgraduate students are integrated into the research community of the school through participation in research seminars given by visiting speakers, and research workshops given by members of the school. There is an active postgraduate research group in each of the school's four key research areas.

Student Services

Student Services provide a range of support and information to enhance your student experience. They are part of a comprehensive network of University services that includes academic and disability support, counselling, financial support and childcare services.

Centre for English Language Education

Accredited by the British Council for the teaching of English in the UK, the University's Centre for English Language Education provides high-quality preparation and English language support, as well as a social programme for its students.

Students' Union

The Students' Union is an important source of support with their own Student Advice Centre and dedicated postgraduate officer.

Researcher Development Programme

Working closely with academic schools, the Graduate School's dedicated training team contribute to faculty specific and doctoral training programmes. They deliver core training in line with the standards set out by the UK's major research funders through their researcher development programme.


Find a supervisor

You will be allocated an appropriate dissertation supervisor who will oversee your progress.



See information on how to fund your studies, including our step-by-step guide. Further information is available on the school website.

Government loans for doctoral study

The Government plans to introduce doctoral student loans of up to £25,000 for PhDs and equivalent research programmes from 2018. Applicants must ordinarily live in England and more details are expected to be announced in due course.

Doctoral training programmes

Linked to research councils, doctoral training programmes offer funding opportunities connected to our research priorities.

International and EU students

Research scholarships are available for outstanding international and EU students. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure your course application is submitted in good time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.



Recent graduates have gone on to careers in the public, private and third sectors, including national and local government departments and regulatory agencies and charities. Many use this degree a foundation for further study via a PhD.

If you think you may want to upgrade your qualification to a PhD, you might consider MRes/(Sc) MRes Geography.

Many of our PhD students continue in the academic field, either at the University of Nottingham or elsewhere. Other recent graduates have go on to work for organisations such as the Environment Agency, Centre for Ecology and Hydrology, Experian, the Forestry Commission and business and professional service firms.

Employability and average starting salary

100% of postgraduates from the School of Geography who were available for employment secured work or further study within six months of graduation. £25,721 was the average starting salary, with the highest being £29,847.*

* Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career and professional development

Whether you are looking to enhance your career prospects or develop your knowledge, a postgraduate degree from the University of Nottingham can help take you where you want to be.

The University's award-winning Careers and Employability Service offers specialist support and guidance while you study and for life after you graduate. They will help you explore and plan your next career move, through regular events, employer-led skills sessions, placement opportunities and one-to-one discussions.

PhD student Phil Northall walking with a bike outside QMC - Geography

Get in touch

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This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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