Resource Database: Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

Title Crofting - Voices from the Past
Originators Iain Robertson1 and Charlie Withers2
Department 1School of Environment, Cheltenham & Gloucester College of Higher Education, Francis Close Hall, Swindon Road, Cheltenham, GL50 4AZ
2Department of Geography, University of Edinburgh, Drummond Street, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP
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This is a single practical session, one of five in a course entitled 'Reconstructing Historial Communities'. Students are provided with a workpack which comprises 10 hours of independent work over a two week period. The nature of that work is primarily reflective. Extracts from the Napier Commission report are reproduced in full, and comprise the verbatim evidence of two people in contrasting positions: a Skye crofter and a famous Highland agitator. Contemporary (nineteenth century) illustrations, and photographs of evictions are included in the workpack. The students complete an assessed exercise which calls on them to develop skills of reflection and evaluation of qualitative sources. Reading lists are supplied.


Learning objectives:

  1. To challenge students' preconceptions and distrust of qualitative research. Too easily and often, students equate subjectivity with 'bias' and 'inaccuracy'. Subjective opinion is contrasted negatively with supposedly objective data sets and condemned for a 'lack of objectivity'.
  2. When students have completed this module they will have gained an appreciation of the strength of qualitative research, developed a more reflective attitude towards the gathering and interpretation of data, gained a deeper understanding of historical-geographical change in the Scottish Highlands.

Techniques included:


There are two written exercises set for this practical, both of which expect students to have read and reflected on the qualitative material provided, and also carried out background reading on qualitative methodology. However, students choose which units of this course to write up and submit for assessment, and not all students carry all the practical activities through.


Qualitative research
Scottish Highlands

This is one of the case studies which appears in the GDN Guide "Practicals and Laboratory Work in Geography"

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