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Stage 1: Before you start

Introduction

Even though coursework is no longer part of GCSE and AS/A2 Geography, you still need to carry out fieldwork for the controlled assessment at GCSE or skills papers at AS/A2.

One day you are going to be asked questions like Describe the aims of your field investigation and How did you make sure that you carried out your field investigation safely? Examiners will quickly work out if you are making it all up, and mark you down accordingly. A far less risky approach is to make sure that you have carried out a range of fieldwork investigations, so that you are prepared for whatever they throw at you in the exam.

How do you decide on the title for your geographical investigation? It's easier to think of reasons why you can't do certain titles.

Constraint Effect
Specification content Don't choose topics that are not on your exam specification. So if, for example, you are taking OCR AS Geography, don't do an Edexcel topic like rural rebranding
Travel Be realistic. It is much easier to collect data from sites close to where you live. You can always go back if you need to collect more data. This is particularly important for questionnaire surveys - what if it's raining heavily on the one day that you visit?
Access to sites If you have don't have access to your own transport, then avoid fieldwork in remote places (like many ice investigations). Rural investigations should be restricted to a small number of easy-to-reach sites, so rurality studies are to be avoided. For ecosystems, rivers and ice investigations you will need to seek permission to enter sites - access is restricted to many sand dunes, for example.
Personal safety This must be considered for all sites - see the risk assessment section below. Some urban investigations (particularly urban inequalities) may involve visiting parts of city where you may feel uncomfortable. For rivers and coasts investigations (especially river processes) there is a risk of drowning.
Interests Fieldwork shouldn't be a chore - and the best way to stop this from happening is to choose a title that you find interesting. If you think the whole of Geography is boring, then we can't help you, but if you just want to do something new and innovative, consider investigations into studentification and the 24 hour city.

Aims and hypotheses

Once you have decided on a general theme (like Coasts), you need to think of a title. One place to start is a general research question. Here are some examples

Use the Background information sections on the Stage 1 pages for each topic on this website. For example, the Background information section of the downstream changes topic of 'water' covers two geographical models (Bradshaw and Schumm, both of which can be used to ask geographical questions), geographical theory about key river variables, and the concept of stream ordering.

Use your research question to construct hypotheses. A hypothesis is a statement that you can test. A well written hypothesis is clear, directional and measurable. So for the first research question How does the River Onny change downstream? some good hypotheses that you could test would be

A null hypothesis is a specialised form of hypothesis used in statistical testing. It is covered in more detail in Stage 4.

Risk assessments

All Geography specifications include a section on risk assessments. You should expect to answer exam questions about risk assessments. For each fieldwork investigation you should be able to identify a small number of risks, and the associated control measures to help you reduce those risks.

There is no need to go over the top. You are unlikely to be abducted by Martians while carrying out a beach transect, and any examiner will take a dim view of frivolous answers for risks and control measures. But what could kill you during fieldwork? Some general ideas...

For example, a risk in an investigation into rural hierarchies is that you will need to walk down narrow country lanes where there is a chance that you could be involved in a road traffic accident. A possible control measure would be to walk on the right-hand side of the road, to face oncoming traffic and allow you to move out of the way onto the grass verge. Risks in a rivers investigation include drowning. A possible control measure would be to avoid entering water which is deeper that knee level, as this would prevent you from being knocked off your feet by the flow of the water and possibly hitting your head on rocks on the river bed.

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Looking for a next step?
The FSC has a national network of residential and day Centres, open all year round with full-time teaching staff. We can work with you to meet all Geography fieldwork needs from 11-19. Find out more about fieldwork in geography with FSC, covering: A level Geography fieldwork; AS geography fieldwork; GCSE geography fieldwork; key stage 3 geography field trips.
We offer a range of publications and courses for adults, families and professionals that relate to geography.

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