Geography Dissertation Topics

Geography Dissertation Topics

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Example geography dissertation topic 1:

The development of Chicago as a city during the nineteenth century: A comparative study with Edinburgh.

According to Cronon (1991, p.64), 'Chicago's city streets became places where the products of different ecosystems, different economies, and different ways of life came together and exchanged places'. Using this quotation as a starting point, this dissertation seeks to address the development of both Chicago and Edinburgh in spatial, commercial and governance terms within the nineteenth century. In so doing it addresses linked core-competencies of special urban geography; including space theory and urban-ness as well as the issues of civic ritual in the mapping of urban spaces.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Cronon, W. (1991). Nature's metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: Norton.
  • Massey, D., Allen, J. and Pile, S. (eds) (1999). City worlds. London: Routledge.
  • Rodger, R. (2001) The transformation of Edinburgh: Land, property and trust. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Example geography dissertation topic 2:

A literature based review of the main strengths and weaknesses of qualitative and quantitative approaches for the study of urban geography.

Urban geography, and in particular the study of cities and regions, is a growing area of research within the geography departments of the UK's elite universities, with an increasing number of them forming specific research groups to address such issues as the development of urban-ness and the spatial reconstitution of the city in the post-industrial era. Focussing upon issues of 'space and society' within the post-industrial conurbation of Birmingham, this dissertation addresses the difficulties that the research geographer faces when seeking to achieve academic balance between field work, interviews, reviews of literature and computer modelling and asks whether, for such studies, the mixed method approach favoured by social scientists, remains the best vehicle for such research.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Baxter, J. and Eyles, J. (1997). 'Evaluating qualitative research in social geography: Establishing 'rigour' in interview analysis', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Vol. 22, pp. 505-525.
  • Bryman, A. (2012). Social research methods. (4th edn) Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Graham, E. (1999). 'Breaking out: The opportunities and challenges of multi-method research in population geography', The Professional Geographer, Vol. 51, pp. 76-89.

Example geography dissertation topic 3:

A discussion of cultural provinces of England: How historical geographical analysis can assist in the identification of a distinctive geo-cultural Cornish identity.

The work of geographers such as Langton, Fawcett and Gilbert helped shape contemporary geographic understanding of the concepts of regionalism and cultural provinces within England. The issue of regional identity and cultural traits is not, however, one of merely historic geographical analysis as may be illustrated by the more recent work of Colls on Northumbria. This dissertation uses the theories advanced by Colls with regards to Northumbria and in turn applies them to Cornwall. Through so doing issues of landscape history and evaluation are teamed with geo-political analysis of developing cultural trends within Cornwall. This is a challenging dissertation that, through combining aspects of cultural geography and history, would be particularly suited to a student with a joint-honours background.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Colls, R. (ed.) (2007). Northumbria: History and identity, 547-2000. Stroud: The History Press.
  • Deacon, B. (2001). The reformulation of territorial identity: Cornwall in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. PhD thesis, Open University.
  • McLean, F. (2006). 'Introduction: Heritage and identity', International Journal of Heritage Studies, Vol. 12(1), pp. 3-7.

Example geography dissertation topic 4:

An evaluation of the role of the environment in shaping development prospects in Isan (north eastern Thailand).

This is a dissertation that draws predominantly on the collection of new primary data and thereafter contextualises that data into longer-standing geographic debates through the undertaking of a substantive literature review. This provides a balanced academic approach to the overall study. In collating the primary data the researcher will spend three months conducting research and interviews with local leaders and tribesmen to ascertain their concerns relating to the retention of the regional identity and traditional way of life that incorporates an appreciation of the local environment. This is particularly pertinent given the increasingly globalised nature of development with Isan, and the challenges that such development realises.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Hirsch, P. (2001). 'Globalisation, regionalisation and local voices: The Asian Development Bank and rescaled politics of the environment in the Mekong Region', Singapore Journal of Tropical Geography, Vol. 22, pp. 237-251.
  • Keskinen, M. (2008). 'Water resources development and impact assessment in the Mekong Basin: Which way to go?', AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment, Vol. 37(3), pp. 193-198.
  • Sneddon, C. and Fox, C. (2006). 'Rethinking transboundary waters: A critical hydropolitics of the Mekong basin', Political Geography, Vol. 25(2), pp. 181-202.

Example geography dissertation topic 5:

Contemporary gentrification has become a 'global urban strategy' (Smith, 2002): A comparative case study of water-side redevelopments in Market Harborough and Leeds.

Within urban geography, issues of land use and redevelopment are of pivotal importance. Using the redevelopment of the former canal basin at Market Harborough, and the redevelopment of canal-side warehouses into residential units within Leeds, as case studies, this dissertation has two primary objectives. First it evaluates the success of these two developments in terms of their contribution to the urban strategy outlined by Smith in which the gentrification of former run down areas has encouraged people to move back into the centre of cities. Secondly, the paper asks what proposed new redevelopment sites (such as those in Salford and Huddersfield) can learn from such previous schemes. This is a dissertation that could be further enhanced (from a human geography viewpoint) by the conducing of interviews with residents.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Coulson, A. and Wright, G. (2012). 'Brindleyplace, Birmingham: Creating an inner city mixed-use development in times of recession', Planning Practice and Research, DOI: 10.1080/02697459.2012.716591.
  • Jones, P. (2008). 'Different but the same? Post‐war slum clearance and contemporary regeneration in Birmingham, UK', City: Analysis of Urban Trends, Culture, Theory, Policy, Action, Vol. 12(3), pp. 356-371.
  • Smith, N. (2002). 'New globalism, new urbanism: Gentrification as global urban strategy', Antipode, Vol. 34, pp. 427-450.

Example geography dissertation topic 6:

Poulantzas' interpretation of national territory: A critical evaluation in relation to Scottish independence.

According to Poulantzas (1978, p. 104), 'National territory has nothing to do with the natural features of the land. It is rather of an essentially political character in that the State tends to monopolize the procedures of the organization of space.' Combining political geography with concepts of statehood and the meaning of place, this dissertation evaluates the 2014 referendum proposal on independence (as devised by the Scottish government, through the auspices of Alex Salmond and the Scottish National Party) through the vortex of Poulantzas' academic opinion. In so doing geographical theory is juxtaposed with issues of contemporary politics and public opinion (as measured through the conducting of 100 street-based interviews in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Oban). This is a dissertation that, accordingly, seeks to blend aspects of political geography with not only human geography but also issues of urban space and geographic identity.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Kasperson, R.E. and Minghi, J.V. (eds) (1969). The structure of political geography. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
  • Pittock, M. (2012). 'Scottish sovereignty and the union of 1707: Then and now', National Identities, Vol. 14(1), pp. 11-21.
  • Poulantzas, N.A. (1978). State, power, socialism. London: Verso.

Example geography dissertation topic 7:

The changing nature of urban geography and governance - a study of Rio de Janeiro.

According to Dear and Dahmann (2008), urban politics are being reshaped by the geographies of postmodern urbanism. Using Rio de Janeiro as a case study this thesis seeks to test the reliability of this hypothesis. Having first defined post-modern urbanism and applied its meaning to Rio, this thesis, thereafter, address two penumbral issues. First, it considers the issue of cultural homogeneity and community building across cities that possess a divergent multi-cultural and socio-economic basis. Secondly, the paper explores the extent to which the designation of land use within the built environment of a modern city has been changed so that it addresses not only political-corporate needs but the public needs of citizens.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Dear, M. and Dahmann, N. (2008). 'Urban politics and the Los Angeles school of urbanism', Urban Affairs Review, Vol. 44(2), pp. 266-279.
  • O'Hare, G. and Barke, M. (2002). 'The favelas of Rio de Janeiro: A temporal and spatial analysis', GeoJournal, Vol. 56(3), pp. 225-240.
  • Vargas, J.H.C. (2006). 'When a favela dared to become a gated condominium: The politics of race and urban space in Rio de Janeiro', Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 33(4), pp. 49-81.

Example geography dissertation topic 8:

Middlesbrough: Urban patterns of social and community cohesion.

Urban identity is built upon social and physical structures within a specific environment. Failure or success in the construction of social and community cohesion can see a city riven by either strife or united by a common aim. This dissertation examines the case of Middlesbrough has seen citizens enjoin with its city council in numerous (unfruitful) attempts to attain city status, and which exhibits a higher level of social and community cohesion amongst diverse groups, including whites with ancestral ties to the town, East Asians, and asylum-seekers and refugees, than other northern cities such as Bradford and Manchester. This paper explores the dimension that urban geography and patterns of community identity bring to Middlesbrough, and seeks to determine whether such patterns have overcome the town's traditional class barriers.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Clout, H. (2003). 'Place description, regional geography and area studies'. In, Johnston, R. and Williams, M., A century of British geography. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 247-274.
  • Leach, S. and Wilson, D. (2004). 'Urban elites in England: New models of executive governance', International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol. 28, pp. 134-149.
  • Webster, C., Blackman, T., Sapsford, R., Neil, B. and Chapman, T. (2004). A better place to live: Social and community cohesion in Middlesbrough. Middlesbrough: University of Teesside and Middlesbrough Council.

Example geography dissertation topic 9:

The desire for an amenable environment: The politics of 'neighbours from hell'.

In July 2001, the Social Exclusion Unit was created by Tony Blair, the prime minister of the day, who sought to create a nation where 'no one is seriously disadvantaged by where they live' (SEU, 2001, p. 6). Between the individual and the community lies 'the neighbour'; this study seeks to contextualise contemporary geo-political discourses upon neighbourhood renewal by analysing the role of 'the neighbour'. Through so doing, issues on the fragility of neighbourly relations are discussed, and the (often) self-imposed isolation of the wealthy, as well as the theological and political issues that embody the concept of 'love thy neighbour'. Further, this dissertation questions the extent to which the 'Big Society' has built upon issues of neighbourliness since the Coalition. Finally, the paper makes recommendations on the means by which medium to large firms may negotiate renewed leases in bringing this geo-political issue up to date.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Field, F. (2003). Neighbours from hell: The politics of behaviour. London: Politicos.
  • Fortier, A.M. (2007). 'Too close for comfort: Loving thy neighbour and the management of multicultural intimacies', Environment and Planning D: Society and Space: Vol. 25(1), pp. 104-119.
  • Social Exclusion Unit (2001). A new commitment to neighbourhood renewal. London: Cabinet Office.

Example geography dissertation topic 10:

Planting schemes within the urban landscape to improve security against terrorism.

As a reaction to the World Trade Centre bombing in 2001, there has been a growing realisation amongst urban geographers and planners as to the positives that effective planting can have on issues of security as well as environmental concerns. Strategies such as crime prevention through environmental design and The National Capital Urban Design and Security Plan (for Washington, DC) have graphically illustrated how the planting of shrubbery-disguised bollards and mature trees can be used as architectural barriers for safety whilst also beautifying the urban street scene. This dissertation builds upon such advances in North America and applies the lessons learned there to architecturally, politically and culturally significant parts of London.

Suggested initial topic reading:

  • Crow, T.D. (2000). Crime prevention through environmental design: Applications of architectural design and space management concepts. London: Butterworth-Heinemann.
  • Kuo, F.E. and Sullivan, W.C. (2001). 'Environment and crime in the inner city: Does vegetation reduce crime', Environment and Behaviour, Vol. 33(3), pp. 343-367.
  • Sorkin, M. (ed.) (2008). Indefensible space: The architecture of the national insecurity state. New York: Routledge.

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