Unit 2 Fieldwork Enquiry Exam Question Preparation

Unit 2 involves developing your geographical skills including a fieldwork enquiry. Below are a selection of questions you could be asked in section 2 of paper 2 with advice about how to complete the question.

Describe the purpose of your fieldwork enquiry. (5 marks)
To achieve the higher mark band (level 2, 4-5 marks) you need to describe the aim of the fieldwork along with your hypothesis and link it to the geographical theory/issue.

Describe the geographical theory, concept or idea that formed the basis of your fieldwork investigation. (5 marks) 
You need to demonstrate a detailed understanding of the theory/concept/idea. An example provided by AQA in the mark scheme for June 2010 is as follows:

‘I decided to investigate the changing characteristics of the River Exe. The theory I decided to focus on was the Bradshaw Model. This suggests that, in most rivers, similar changes occur downstream from source to mouth. We focused upon three of these theoretical assumptions. The first part of the theory is that river velocity increases downstream, despite the gradient decreasing. It does this because the frictional drag of the bed and banks is reduced as channel efficiency increases’ …..and so on.

Describe the characteristic features of your study area (5 marks) 
You need to describe the physical or human (or combination of both – depending on the study type) characteristics  in detail. You should also include location information. You need to be specific about your case study area to reach the upper mark band. A clear geographical understanding will help get you full marks.

In the box provided below, draw an annotated sketch map of the location of your study area to show its basic characteristics (5 marks)
The sketch and annotations should give a sense that you have actually visited the site, understands the basic characteristics and is aware of the significance of the characteristics in relation to the aim of the enquiry.

Describe the advantages of your chosen location for the fieldwork enquiry. (4 marks) 

One mark would be awarded for each valid benefit. The exam board offer an example answer below.

Proximity to school, on foot or vehicle. Links to risk assessment such as the students and staff had performed a full risk assessment and the site was judged to be safe. There were trained guides to help minimise the dangers; the site was close to the car park in case of accident etc. (max three marks on risk assessment). Advantages of the site in specific relation to the aim e.g. the river was accessible along much of its course allowing us to investigate downstream changes.

Distinguish between primary and secondary sources of data used in your fieldwork enquiry. (4 marks)
1 mark for showing an awareness of what primary sources are. 1 mark for the example of primary sources used in the study. 1 mark for showing an awareness of what secondary sources are. 1 mark for example used in the study. Max 2 for considering only one element. Max 2 for only considering examples.

Outline risks associated with primary data collection and explain how you attempted to minimise these. (5 marks) 
Risk assessment involves 3 stages – identifying the risk, steps taken to minimise the risk and ongoing risk assessment. To achieve level 2 in this answer you need to make sure that you not only outline the risk but you must discuss how you tried to minimise each risk (link the two together). To get into level 2 you should also discuss the ongoing risk assessments you completed and how you attempted to minimise these.

Describe a sampling technique you used to collect data. (5 marks)
Any appropriate sampling technique can be referred to. Most responses will focus on random, systematic or stratified approaches, though combinations within this are also possible. The sampling technique should be described in such a way that it is easy to follow and replicate in the field, though due account should be given to the amount of time candidates have to answer the question. Another approach might be to describe secondary data sampling. The example below is provided by the exam board.

I used a combination of systematic and stratified sampling in order to identify the area for our housing quality survey. We first used a 1:25 000 OS map of our study area and identified regular grid line intersections across the study area. We knew that the lower class housing area of Oakwood was much larger than Locking Stumps (a higher class housing area). This technique would therefore also have an element of stratification, in that more properties would be surveyed in Oakwood. Once we identified the grid intersections, we then located the nearest property to the grid intersection and this became the survey site for our environmental and housing quality survey.

State the aim of your investigation and describe one method of data collection associated with the aim. (6 marks)
There must be an aim which is clearly geographical and also generated from within the specification. It should point towards an investigation which can be realistically completed by a student, particularly in terms of time and scale. e.g. to investigate the changing pattern of sediments across a shingle beach at location x. The method should be described in a way that another person could fully do the fieldwork based on your description (top end of level 2 which is 6 marks). Below is an example from the exam board.

We sampled sediments along a transect across a beach. Starting at the cliff line, we took our compass bearing to ensure that we kept a straight line. We then used a tape measure to mark out five metre intervals. At each interval along the transect we used a random number table to generate picking points for the sediments. We selected ten pieces of beach material at each point. We used Powers Index of Roundness to judge the angularity of the sediments. We then took three measurements of the depth, width and long axis of each piece of material…. Etc.

Discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the method of data collection discussed above. (6 marks)
In this answer you are going to evaluate the method. You need to discuss in details both the strengths and weaknesses of the method of data collection. You can also discuss the weaknesses in terms of what the data will be used for. The exam board offer this example:

The method was effective because within our groups we all completed four transects during the course of the day. This allowed us to build up a picture of sediment changes across a large area of the shingle beach. Also, we all used the same sampling technique and this gave us strong consistency etc… One weakness was related to the Powers Index of Roundness technique for classifying material. This is quite a subjective analysis and we had lots of disagreements etc…

For more than 5 marks there needs to be more than one strength/weakness.

Evaluate one method of primary data collection that you used in your enquiry. (6 marks)

When evaluating you should  consider the strengths and/or weaknesses of the methodology and how it may be improved. There should also be some explicit comment in relation to the overall effectiveness of the methodology. You responses should consider strengths in terms of the appropriateness of the methodology in relation to the aim. Basic response might dwell on the ease and simplicity of the methodology. Others might consider the practicality and / or ability to obtain accurate, sophisticated data with relative ease.

Weakness can relate to specific aspects of the methodology such as the sampling technique. You might also consider human error as a valid weakness or limited factor. The qualitative nature of some data might also be considered a limitation, depending upon the type of methodology. The best responses will consider the impact of the methodology upon the subsequent findings. Improvement may be suggested.

With reference to the aim of your fieldwork investigation, justify one method of data collection. (6 marks)
The aim should be outlined either implicitly or explicitly. It should link to the specification. The justification of the method should show how this was appropriate in helping to achieve the aim. Avoid long description of the method as this is not the question. Your response should be more concerned with how the method was designed in such a way as to investigate the aim.  Justification may consider advantages of method and only refer to the aim rather than directly link back to the aim. This is a legitimate approach.

Outline how you obtained and why you used secondary data in your enquiry. (5 marks)
Secondary sources incorporate a potentially very wide range of data. Met office and census data are likely to feature, but use of new technologies such as Google maps or use of OS mapping are also valid.

For the ‘how’ part, responses should briefly summarise how the data was obtained and selected. For example, an OS map of the study area might be selected and, from this, co-ordinates used to identify the specific area under investigation. This could be downloaded electronically and used as preparation for the field trip. The ‘why’ part should explain the main reasons for selecting this data. For example the use of an OS map might be used to identify the study area and its basic characteristics.

Describe one method used to present your data. (5 marks)
Responses should show an awareness of the data transformation process. The response should show how the various stages in the generation of the technique occur. The specific technique should be appropriately named. Some candidates may describe the presentation of a technique using electronic media such as Microsoft Excel. This is acceptable as long the process is explained at a comparable level of detail. If you talk about a method of analysis e.g. Spearman’s Rank you will not exceed level 1. Also, you need to include information about your own data in the description otherwise you will not exceed level 1. You need to give a step by step outline of how the data was transformed from numerical form through to the completion of the chosen technique. Below is an example from the exam board.

We used proportional divided circles to represent our beach study data. We first calculated the estimated volume (length x breadth x depth) of each piece of beach material and then took an average of the ten sediments. This gave us an average volume for each 5 metre interval. We then used a simple formula where radius is equal to the square root of the area divided by π (pi). For area we used the volume of the pebble measured in cm3. This gave us a proportional radius which, using a compass then gave us a proportional circle for each transect. We then used an overlay to display this data on a sketch map of the area.

With reference to one technique you chose to present data in your enquiry, justify the choice of this technique. (6 marks)
Your response should consider the merits or advantages of your chosen PRESENTATIONAL technique. Irrespective of the technique, you can access the full range of marks depending on the quality of the explanation. For example, bar graphs / histograms can access the full range of marks if your justification of the technique is clearly elaborated. You need to justifying in terms of the data being displayed. You could consider  limitations of other techniques. Clear justification of the use of the technique through explanation of either strengths or suitability. Some reference to your own data for full marks.

Describe advantages of a technique that you used to analyse your data. (5 marks)
The analysis technique is likely to be statistically based. Other analysis techniques might include a scatter graph with a line of best fit. Some may drift into techniques more linked to presentation of data and include tables, bar charts, pie charts. These techniques can still score credit provided the candidate describes the advantages in terms of the opportunity for analysis provided by the technique. Specific advantages depend upon the technique chosen. For example for a scatter graph advantages may include the ability to plot large amount of data and identify trends/spot anomalies. This could also link to statistical techniques such as Spearman’s Rank. To hit the upper mark boundary you need to describe more than one advantage and how this technique helped you to analyse your data.

With specific reference to your results, summarise the main conclusions of your enquiry. (5 marks)
There should be clear evidence of the actual findings of the study. Use of data is one mechanism by which this can occur. Depending upon the study, this may take the form of summary statements in relation to the findings. Conclusions should be clear and precise, linking back to the original aim. Some may point to further areas of study or future work. Others may question the reliability of the data as part of the findings. This is a legitimate approach.

How far did your fieldwork conclusions match the geographical theory, concept or idea on which your investigation was based? (8 marks) 

Your answer should summarise your findings and in doing so, link these to the expected outcomes. This should be based upon the theory concept or idea from which the study was based. The key is in the linkage. To reach the higher marks you need to explain how and why the findings differ from the theory. Below is an example from the exam board:

Our theory suggested that the largest beach material would be found at the back of the beach (nearest the cliff) this is due to the sorting action of waves on a beach…etc.

However our data was inconclusive in relation to the expected outcome. We found that average particle size at the back of the beach was …For some transects the data did indeed show a decline in volume with distance from the back of the beach in line with the theory, but for others the findings where inconsistent. Transect 7 for example showed an increase in particle size of 14cm3 at a distance of 20 metres from the back of the storm beach. If this were just an isolated case, we might explain this as faulty data collection, but several other groups reported similar trends. This highlights the need for further research into the phenomena ….etc.

Explain how your fieldwork enquiry could have been improved. (6 marks)
There are a variety of ways you could approach this question. Typically most will look at the methodology and refer to the limitations / improvements you could make to this part of the enquiry. Others may look at the set up of the enquiry and even the original aim. This would form part of a sophisticated response if you show how the findings present limitations to the whole basis of the enquiry. May also consider further research opportunities. To achieve a level 2 you would need to be clearly focused upon improvements, with evidence of the impact of the suggested improvement. You may consider various aspects of the enquiry from original aim through to results. Realistic improvements in relation to the your own enquiry. You may point towards further research. Improvements explicit.

Referring to your results, outline the main conclusions of your enquiry and suggest further areas of research. (8 marks)

This is an opportunity to summarise the conclusions of the study and reflect on the further developments which could be made. The question is likely to provide a variety of approaches in response. In concluding, responses should make statements which are likely to involve revisiting the original aim and, where appropriate, draw on actual data. In suggesting further areas of enquiry, responses are likely to focus on:

• Improvements to methods and/or sampling
• New study sites in a future study, perhaps involving different time frames
• Repeating the study
• A new line of enquiry arising out of the study which may point to an entirely new study based on the findings of the original enquiry.