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Research profile

This programme's emphasis on independent research allows you to work closely with scholars who are leaders in their field.

Research may be in any area of social, urban, environmental, development, political, economic, historical or cultural geography that is supported by the Human Geography Research Group. It is co-delivered with the University’s Graduate School of Social Science.

The programme can stand alone as a masters degree, or form the first year of a ‘1+3’ ESRC-backed PhD programme.

Students who successfully complete this programme will:

  • acquire transferable skills relevant to advanced researchers
  • develop skills in data acquisition and analysis
  • understand wider methodological and epistemological debates relevant to their research

This programme is affiliated with the University's Global Environment & Society Academy.

Programme structure

We offer a balance between general and specialist research training. The programme combines lectures, practical work, workshops, essays, seminars and one-to-one supervision of independent research leading to delivery of a dissertation.

Compulsory courses:

  • Research Design in Human Geography
  • Methodological Debates in Human Geography
  • Core Quantitative Data Analysis 1 and 2
  • Research Skills in the Social Sciences: Data Collection
  • Dissertation in Human Geography

Option courses:

In consultation with the Programme Director, you will choose from a range of option courses. We particularly recommend:

  • Conducting Research Interviews
  • Contemporary Social Theory
  • The Documents of Life
  • Explanation and Understanding in Social and Political Research
  • Intermediate Inferential Statistics: Testing and Modelling
  • Listening to Children: Research and Consultation
  • Political Ecology
  • Qualitative Methods and Ethnographic Fieldwork
  • Survey Methods and Data
  • Values and the Environment

Independent research

The emphasis on independent research allows you to work closely with scholars at the cutting edge in order to advance your own research passions. A highlight of the programme is the postgraduate conference where you present your research to colleagues.

The University of Edinburgh has an unbroken record of teaching and research in the earth sciences going back to 1770, when Robert Ramsay became the first Professor of Natural History.

James Hutton and Arthur Holmes were prominent among those who set an academic tradition in Edinburgh that continues today with the University achieving top ratings in earth sciences teaching and research.

Our interactive and interdisciplinary research environment allows us to tackle difficult research questions, from causes of past glaciations to interactions of earth, climate and society. The ambition and quality of our research was reflected in the latest Research Assessment Exercise: 66 per cent of our research was rated within the top two categories – world-leading and internationally excellent.

Our location at the King’s Buildings campus – home to most of the University’s science and engineering research – benefits our work too. Our King’s Buildings neighbours include external institutes such as the British Geological Survey; our proximity to them strengthens these research links.

Training and support

As a research student, you will be affiliated to one of our research institutes, benefiting from an excellent peer-supported network.

As groupings of researchers with related interests, the institutes provide a forum for development of ideas, collaboration, and dissemination of results, and an environment for training, development and mentoring of research students and early career researchers.

Backed by industry

The School receives strong backing from industry, particularly in areas such as hydrocarbons and carbon capture and storage. We receive support from the EU and from major UK research councils, including the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council.


Visit the Human Geography (MScR) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

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