GEOG 5161, Research Design in Human Geography

Dr. Kenneth E. Foote, Instructor

Seminar: 9:00 to 11:50 am, Mondays in GUGG 201E

Office Hours:  Mondays, 12-1 and by appt. in Guggenheim 102B, Phone: (303) 492-6760, E-mail:

On this page: Overview | Assignments & Grading | Textbooks | Policies on:  Disabilities Assistance | Religious Observances | Classroom BehaviorDiscrimination and Harassment | Honor Code

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This course is the second semester in the sequence of required courses for first-year graduate students in our department. The overall goal is for you to define specific research questions and develop a research strategy for your master's thesis or doctoral dissertation.  The principal written product of this semester will be a research proposal produced in the format of a proposal for a funding agency such as the US National Science Foundation. This proposal is important because it may help fund your research.  It is also important because, by the end of this semester, you will need to schedule a "planning meeting" with your advisor and thesis or dissertation committee.  Your proposal will help demonstrate to your advisors that you are prepared to begin your research in the coming year. 

In addition to the goal of prepare a fundable research proposal, by the end of the course you will be able to:

1) Understand the strengths and weaknesses of major qualitative and quantitative methodologies employed in contemporary geography and demonstrate this understanding in your proposal.

Some research methods are, of course, highly specific to particular sub-disciplines and are treated in other courses here in the geography department as well as in other CU departments (e.g. survey research; geostatistics; remote sensing; qualitative methods; ethnographic methods; GIS). As a consequence, we will discuss research methodologies in a general level, focusing more on general aspects of research approaches in geography and their relationships to broad issues in scientific methodology.

This also involves understanding the outlines of recent methodological debates in geography.  Tremendous innovation and change is underway across many fields of geography, including both the greater use of qualitative and mix-method techniques as well as refinements in geostatistical analysis and modeling.  Keeping abreast of these debates is a very important part of professional life. 

2) Articulate the professional and ethical standards which guide your research and publishing.

Professional ethics should be at the foundation of all of our work.  But, although, we cannot anticipate all of the ethical issues which may arise from our research and publishing, it is important to be aware of standards and principles which can help us clarify and resolve ethical dilemmas.

3) Develop skills in academic writing and publishing.

From the very start of a research project it is important to have a clear idea of its audience and how to communicate with that audience in writing, maps, and graphics.  We will focus on the issue of choosing appropriate journals in which to publish; how to prepare manuscripts for publication, including the use of style sheets and guides; how to design effective tables, figures, and maps; and how the peer-review process operates.

4) Get the most out of preparing for and attending professional conferences and meetings, including writing abstracts, practicing oral communication and presentational styles, and networking with colleagues.

Attending and participating in conferences is one of the best ways of sharing ideas, gaining feedback, and learning about recent developments in our subfields.  Conferences are also an excellent way to make contacts and build networks which can be help us at every stage of our careers.

5) Engage in research and publishing as a social activity--we all gain from the help of and by helping others.

Despite the stereotypes of academic life as a solitary pursuit, almost all research indicates the value of making our research work a social activity--sharing ideas, drafts, and help as readily as possible. 

The amount of reading assigned in this course is relatively modest to allow you time to concentrate on developing your own research proposal. Early in the semester you need to agree on a research topic with your advisor and on a reading list appropriate for that topic.

We will begin the semester with a consideration of the theories and methods which are most closely related to your thesis or dissertation topics.  There will be presentations by you and perhaps visiting faculty on current methodological debates in various branches of human geography and GIScience. These presentations will focus on important current research and methodological trends and give you a chance to become familiar with research conducted by peers and faculty working in areas outside of your specialty.

Also included in the seminar will be workshops on the writing of grant proposals, strategies for publishing research results, and practice in the oral communication of research results.

The final section of the course will consist of the presentation and discussion of your research proposal.  You receive peer reviews of your research proposal to aid you in preparing the final version of your proposal.

The success of the course obviously depends on the identification of your area of research and of specific research questions early in the semester. It is important that you work with your faculty advisor throughout the semester to help you define your thesis topic, background literature, and methodology.

Assignments and Grading

In this seminar you will have a writing or discussion assignment to complete just about every week.  Your grade will be based on this work as follows:
  1. A research proposal, including partial and final drafts (50% of final grade)  You will write this in sections for discussion in seminar in the first weeks of the semester.  A complete first draft is due before spring break; the final draft at the end of the semester.  Because the proposal is built up on in sections, the contribution of each draft to the final grade is: draft of research question (5 %); draft of literature review (10%); draft of methodology (10%); first full draft of proposal (10%); final draft of proposal due at end of semester (15%).
  2. Geo-methodologies activity (15%): Instructions 
  3. Discussion of one colloquium presentation (10%): Instructions You will pick the week you wish to review.
  4. Weekly assignments and weekly class participation (25%): Instructions are in the seminar schedule


We will be using a variety of paper and digital sources in class.  You will be using the following textbooks extensively, so you should purchase them from the bookstore, the publishers, or an online book dealer.

Creswell, John W.  2009. Research design: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods approaches. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.  (Paperback ISBN-10: 1412965578; ISBN-13: 978-1412965576)

Solem, Michael, Kenneth Foote, and Janice Monk.  2009. Aspiring Academics: A Resource Book for Graduate Students and Early Career Faculty.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

Turabian , Kate L.  2007.  A manual for writers of research papers, theses, and dissertations: Chicago style for students and researchers. 7th ed.  Revised by Wayne C. Booth, Gregory G. Colomb, Joseph M. Williams and the University of Chicago Press Editorial Staff.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  (Paperback ISBN-10: 0226823377; ISBN-13: 978-0226823379)

Other books and articles will be distributed by email and made available through Norlin Reserve.

Other policies:

Disabilities Assistance and Accommodation

If you qualify for accommodations because of a disability, please submit to me a letter from Disability Services in a timely manner so that your needs be addressed. Disability Services determines accommodations based on documented disabilities. See http://www.Colorado.EDU/disabilityservices

If you have a temporary medical condition or injury, see guidelines at

Disability Services' letters for students with disabilities indicate legally mandated reasonable accommodations. The syllabus statements and answers to Frequently Asked Questions can be found at

Religious Observance

Campus policy regarding religious observances requires that faculty make every effort to deal reasonably and fairly with all students who, because of religious obligations, have conflicts with scheduled exams, assignments or required attendance.  In this class, please make arrangements with me at least ten days in advance of the observance so that plans can be made for your participation. See full details of CU policy at at

Classroom Behavior

Students and faculty each have responsibility for maintaining an appropriate learning environment. Those who fail to adhere to such behavioral standards may be subject to discipline. Professional courtesy and sensitivity are especially important with respect to individuals and topics dealing with differences of race, culture, religion, politics, sexual orientation, gender, gender variance, and nationalities.  Class rosters are provided to the instructor with the student's legal name. I will gladly honor your request to address you by an alternate name or gender pronoun. Please advise me of this preference early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my records.  See policies at and at

Discrimination and Harassment

The University of Colorado at Boulder policy on Discrimination and Harassment, the University of Colorado policy on Sexual Harassment and the University of Colorado policy on Amorous Relationships apply to all students, staff and faculty.  Any student, staff or faculty member who believes s/he has been the subject of sexual harassment or discrimination or harassment based upon race, color, national origin, sex, age, disability, creed, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran status should contact the Office of Discrimination and Harassment (ODH) at 303-492-2127 or the Office of Judicial Affairs at 303-492-5550.  Information about the ODH, the above referenced policies and the campus resources available to assist individuals regarding discrimination or harassment can be obtained at

Honor Code

All students of the University of Colorado at Boulder are responsible for knowing and adhering to the academic integrity policy of this institution. Violations of this policy may include: cheating, plagiarism, aid of academic dishonesty, fabrication, lying, bribery, and threatening behavior.  All incidents of academic misconduct shall be reported to the Honor Code Council (; 303-735-2273). Students who are found to be in violation of the academic integrity policy will be subject to both academic sanctions from the faculty member and non-academic sanctions (including but not limited to university probation, suspension, or expulsion). Other information on the Honor Code can be found at

Last revised 2012.12.18.