Practicing Interdisciplinary Field Research on the Environment

Course content

This course gives students the opportunity to gain skills in designing, implementing and reporting on field research on natural resources/environment/agriculture in interdisciplinary groups. The course emphasizes the application of both qualitative and quantitative methods commonly used in the natural and social sciences. Students will experience the difficulties, trade-offs, limitations and possible benefits of applying various methods in real-world situations while working on their research project, which addresses a relevant natural resource/environmental/agricultural problem/issue.


The main objective of this course is for students to gain experience of the research process in its entirety: from identifying and formulating a research question; preparing a research design; planning and implementing data collection; analyzing data; writing an academic report; and presenting/defending the report. The course gives students the possibility to appreciate how different approaches to data collection affect the findings obtained and to reflect upon the material gathered (or not gathered) from the specific methods used. Additionally, an important aim is to create awareness of research ethics.

The course includes undertaking a (small) research project and about two weeks of field research (data collection), typically in the Global South. The course commences with three weeks of preparation in Denmark. With the point of departure in broad thematic areas identified by the lecturers, a specific/given field site and logistical setup, students work in interdisciplinary groups to prepare a synopsis, which describes the research problem, the research question(s) and the data collection methods to be applied during the fieldwork. The synopsis forms part of the final assessment. During the 10/11 days of fieldwork, the student groups refine their research design and apply relevant methods to collect the data necessary to answer their research questions. On return from the field, the student groups write a report (approximately three weeks) on their research findings, which constitutes the basis for an oral group exam. During the fieldwork/data collection, the student groups work closely with student groups from partner universities (see below); they share the collected data, but the student groups from this course and those from partner universities prepare separate reports, and assessment is also separate.  

The course is a collaboration between the Department of Food and Resource Economics (UCPH), Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences (UCPH), Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management (UCPH), and Department of People and Technology (RUC). The consortium has since 1998 carried out interdisciplinary field courses in collaboration with university partners in Malaysia, Kenya, Thailand, South Africa, Cambodia, Indonesia, Swaziland and Botswana. New partners and countries may be added as the collaboration evolves. If fieldwork in a particular year takes place in more than one country, students will be given the option to indicate their preferred choice (but cannot be guaranteed). The course attracts students from various study programmes as well as exchange students. 

The course runs in Block 3 (February-April). For logistical and planning purposes, students interested in following the course should register before the end of October the year before. Check the specific date at where the registration form is also found. In addition to this registration, students must enrol in the course following the normal enrollment procedures and deadlines.



MSc Programme in Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Global Environment and Development
MSc Programme in Geography and Geoinformatics

Learning outcome

The learning outcomes of the course relate to the design and implementation of research in a complex and messy field situation and knowledge and reflection upon natural and social science methods and research ethics.


After the course, students can


  • describe and define what is a knowledge gap, research objective and research question;
  • describe and define central concepts relevant to natural and social science data collection, analysis and interpretation.



  • identify, formulate and justify a research objective and set of research questions;
  • design a research plan for an interdisciplinary field study, incorporating a variety of relevant methods;
  • integrate own disciplinary knowledge into an interdisciplinary group assignment (report);
  • ability to work in an intercultural group;
  • collect, process and analyze relevant data during and after fieldwork; 
  • clearly communicate research findings.



  • critically discuss the different kinds of data and forms of knowledge obtained by alternative data collection and analytical methods, including how these methods shape research findings;
  • reflect on the quality of the research plan, methods and collected data;
  • reflect on how findings may be generalized beyond the specific context in which data was collected; 
  • reflect on how the findings relate to broader issues of sustainability, livelihood, natural resource management and development;
  • reflect on ethical concerns in relation to empirical research.

The course runs full-time over eight weeks (15 ECTS; full block). It falls into three weeks of preparation with the formulation of research questions and research design compiled into a research synopsis, which forms part of the examination; two weeks of fieldwork (including travel); and three weeks of data analysis and report writing. Throughout the course, students work in groups. Groups are formed by the lecturers based on students’ research interests and to have groups with variation in terms of academic backgrounds, nationalities and gender.

The course curriculum will be made available in Absalon. It consists of texts on the research process, ethical concerns in relation to empirical research and texts on the country context where the fieldwork takes place. Most of the literature will be texts related to the research topic, identified by students through their own literature search.

BSc degree from natural science or social science related programme. It is recommended that students have some knowledge of natural science and social science methods from previous courses, for example, comparable to learning outcomes of the course “Mixed methods to examine Environmental and Development challenges” .

Participants are required to cover transportation costs to the field trip destination, insurance cost, visa cost and food expenditures under the field trip.

Continuous feedback during the course of the semester
Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)
Peer feedback (Students give each other feedback)

Students will receive feedback from lecturers and fellow students on the draft synopsis. Lecturers will also give intensive feedback during the data collection in the field. During report writing, there will also be feedback on the data analysis and draft versions of chapters in the report.

Type of assessment
Oral examination, 60-90 minutes
Written assignment
Type of assessment details
Oral group examination in the synopsis, field report and course curriculum, 60-90 minutes, depending on no. of group members. No preparation time. The examiners will ask students individual questions to allow individual assessment.

Weight: Field report: 50% Oral exam: 50%. Individual grades to students.
All aids allowed
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Please refer to the learning outcomes

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 20
  • Preparation
  • 50
  • Practical exercises
  • 30
  • Field Work
  • 100
  • Project work
  • 160
  • Guidance
  • 30
  • Exam
  • 20
  • English
  • 410


Course number
Programme level
Full Degree Master

1 block

Block 3
Outside schedule, Field trip in 4th, 5th and 6th week of the course
No limits
The number of seats may be reduced in the late registration period
Study Board of Natural Resources, Environment and Animal Science
Contracting department
  • Department of Food and Resource Economics
  • Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management
  • Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences
Contracting faculty
  • Faculty of Science
Course Coordinators
  • Mariève Pouliot   (4-766a797849726f7b7837747e376d74)
  • Dorette Sophie Müller-Stöver   (4-6d7c7c7d4979756e7737747e376d74)

Sinne Borby Østenblad ( Department of Geoscience and Natural Resource Management, UCPH
Dorette Müller-Stöver (, Department of Plant and Environmental Sciences, UCPH

Saved on the 27-06-2023

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