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Durham University

Faculty Handbook Archive

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2017-18. The current handbook year is 2021-22
No such Code for prog: L703
No such Code for prog: L705
No such Code for prog: LMV1
No such Code for prog: LMV2
No such Code for prog: QRV0
No such Code for prog: QRVA

Department: Geography


Type Tied Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2017/18 Module Cap 34 Location Durham
Tied to L702 Geography
Tied to L703
Tied to L704 Geography with Year Abroad
Tied to L705
Tied to LA01 Liberal Arts
Tied to LA02 Liberal Arts (with Year Abroad)
Tied to LMV0 Combined Honours in Social Sciences
Tied to LMV1
Tied to LMV2
Tied to LMVA Combined Honours in Social Sciences (with Year Abroad)
Tied to QRV0
Tied to QRVA
Tied to CFG0 Natural Sciences
Tied to FGC0 Natural Sciences
Tied to CFG1 Natural Sciences with Year Abroad
Tied to CFG2 Natural Sciences with Placement


  • GEOG2472 Social Research in Geography


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • GEOG3501 Berlin: Field Research in a European Context; GEOG3581 Territory and Geopolitics; GEOG3491 Alpine Landscapes and Processes; GEOG3691 Iceland: Field Research in Glacial Environments; GEOG3521 The Arctic; GEOG3731 Dynamic Mountain Environments; GEOG3701 Mountain Hazards


  • To critically explore the geographies of energy transition through a combination of lectures and workshops in Durham, and 8 days of field research in Cape Town, South Africa
  • To introduce students to different ways in which energy transition seeks to redefine societies’ relationships to energy, and how the issues and challenges of energy transition vary geographically
  • To develop and apply geographical and socio-technical perspectives to understand the multiple dimensions of energy transition, including issues of access to energy services, climate change, and energy for development
  • To develop students’ ‘energy literacy’ (i.e. familiarity with terms, concepts, actors and issues) and encourage critical engagement with contemporary energy issues
  • To examine through field-based research the multi-scalar and geographically uneven character of energy transition in a diverse urban setting in southern Africa


  • This module is structured around the theme of energy transition. Transition – implying some form of change over time in the ways in which energy is captured, transformed, accessed, distributed and/or governed – provides a framework for examining the range of challenges associated with contemporary energy use, the actors driving change and the structures and institutions that may resist it, and the potentially competing objectives of universal energy access, energy security, and climate change. The module interprets transition as a geographical process: by changing how people live and work with energy, energy transitions re-work socio-spatial and political ecological relations, generating new patterns of uneven development and scalar configurations. Lectures and workshops introduce students to conceptual and case material in order to illustrate how energy underpins the geographies of everyday life in significant ways; and to enable a critical analysis of how the ‘grand challenge’ of energy transition is made up of several distinct (although often inter-related) issues and how these vary spatially. Field research in Cape Town, South Africa enables students to examine the multiple dimensions and geographies of energy transition in a diverse urban setting, and to understand first-hand the connections among transitions at different scales (national, urban, community/household).
  • The module draws on the research and teaching interests of human geography staff around energy, climate, development and urban infrastructure and explores their intersection in the context of South Africa. The module seeks to capitalise on these intersections and potential synergies through team-teaching in Durham (each lecture will involve contributions by more than one member of staff) and co-investigation and shared learning among staff and students while in the field.
  • Lectures may cover the following themes: Energy landscapes: materialities, spaces, flows; Historical energy transitions: from histories to geographies; Energy for development; Urban securities, vulnerabilities and justice; Energy transition projects and experiments; Placing energy within South Africa’s post-apartheid transformation
  • An initial workshop (‘Disorientation’) will introduce the theme and regional case by encouraging students to reflect critically on their current knowledge and understanding around the module theme. The ‘disorientation’ theme is designed to place students in the role of researchers seeking to understand and formulate – as co-producers of knowledge – rather than as recipients of a pre-conceived orientation. It will involve engaging with a range of data sources and lead to the formulation of some initial ‘propositions’ about energy transition in southern Africa. These will then guide independent reading and research in the period before lectures begin.
  • A subsequent workshop (‘First Cuts’) will assemble research groups and brainstorm initial research ideas. This workshop will take place prior to the Christmas break and will encourage students to continue to develop their research ideas collectively in the transition to Term 2.
  • A final workshop (‘Proposal Preparation’) will take place three weeks prior to departure and will focus on research proposal preparation, and the application of concepts and frameworks to the regional case.
  • The field course will consist of 8 days in Cape Town and will involve: • 0.5 day of introduction and orientation • 6 days of research (organised as 3 sequential ‘infra-lab’ events, each lasting 2 days and exploring a different scale of energy transition: national, urban, community/household) • 1 day of student presentation preparation • 0.5 day of student presentations and evaluation

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On successful completion of the module students will be able to:
  • Critically evaluate the concept of energy transition from geographical and socio-technical perspectives
  • Demonstrate an informed understanding, supplemented by the students’ own research, of the ‘energy-development’ nexus and the connections and potential tensions among energy access, climate change and energy security agendas
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how energy transitions vary over time and space
  • Understand how energy underpins development outcomes and the geographies of daily life at a range of scales
  • Show an appreciation for the dynamic and uneven spatiality of energy systems, and how these manifest themselves in Cape Town, South Africa
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Evaluation and critical application of geographical concepts and theories to understand contemporary issues around the energy access and energy transition
  • Planning, executing and reporting geographical research
  • Collecting, interpreting and synthesising different types of quantitative and qualitative geographical data
Key Skills:
  • Problem formulation, research design and data generation
  • Critical analysis and interpretation of data and text
  • Ability to learn in familiar and unfamiliar settings
  • Capacity to evaluate academic performance of self and others
  • Effective written and verbal communication
  • Identification, retrieval, assessment and synthesis of information from a wide range of sources
  • Team working, involving recognition and respect for the viewpoints of others
  • Time management and effective organisational skills

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Lectures will introduce students to concepts, approaches and cases in pursuit of the module’s aims and objectives. Student-learning will be assisted by readings lists, links to external sources, and summary powerpoint slides made available via DUO.
  • Three workshops will facilitate the module’s research aims and provide an important intermediary step between lectures (students as recipients of information) and field research (students as co-producers of knowledge). Workshops provide an opportunity to discuss and develop ideas covered in the lectures and to apply these in the design of a research problem.
  • Field research in Cape Town will further student understanding of conceptual approaches to energy transition and explore how they can be applied to understand energy capture, transformation, distribution, access and governance at different scales and in different contexts. It will also provide experience in project design, research and analysis, while developing student individual and group working skills.
  • By way of formative assessment, the project outline, the evening tutorial sessions and the oral presentation in the field will assess skills of research design and implementation along with the ability to communicate a research ‘problem’ and focus and to respond to questions. Feedback on formative assessment will thus assist students to apply the concepts learned in lectures to real world problems, to frame appropriate research questions and to select suitable research methods prior to implementation in the field.
  • For summative assessment, students will prepare a literature review, develop and deliver a group presentation, and write an individual report on their group project for summative assessment. The literature review and individual reports on the group projects will test student’s ability to interpret and apply theoretical concepts to empirical examples and their ability to explain things clearly and support their argument with appropriate reference to the literature. The individual report also assesses skills of data analysis and provides students with an opportunity to summarise and communicate their research findings. The summative group presentation will assess the ability to communicate emergent research findings, discuss analysis and respond to questions.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 6 one every two weeks, starting in the second half of Term 1 and resuming in Term 2 2 hours 12
Project planning workshops 2 An initial ‘Disorientation’ workshop at the start of Term 1 and a ‘First Cuts’ proposal workshop at the end of Term 1 2 hours 4
Project planning workshops 1 Proposal Preparation workshop three weeks prior to departure. This session will include the fieldtrip Health & Safety briefing 2 hours 2
Fieldwork 1 7 days in the field (plus two days travel), at the end of Epiphany and before Easter 8 hours per day 56
Student presentations in field 1 4 hours 4
Preparation and Reading 122
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Literature review Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Literature review max 4 pages A4 100%
Component: Presentation (one mark awarded per group) Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation (one mark awarded per group) 20 minutes per group 100%
Component: Individual report Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Individual report Max 6 x sides A4 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment will be provided in the following ways: • an initial project outline/proposal prepared three weeks prior to departure; • during the field course via evening tutorial sessions; • following the oral group presentation in the field.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University