The Nature of Physical Geography

This module is concerned with the development and identity of physical geography and its role in the understanding of dynamic environments. The module begins by considering the nature and methods of physical geography. Building on examples from a number of sub-disciplines of physical geography, it considers issues of scientific explanation, measurement, sampling and modelling. Students taking the module will be able to reflect on the experimental design of their own research projects. Discussions about the methods of physical geography research highlight its relationship with the broader physical sciences and with the social-scientific context of geography. This provides a rich debate about the future path of physical geography and the responsibilities of its practitioners. Some commentators argue for a geographical tradition that places physical geography addressing the interface between the natural and human environments. Others see the practice of physical geographers to be dictated by the agenda of “big science” and for a role within an interdisciplinary scientific framework. The module will explore and debate these tensions in the changing nature of the discipline.

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