The new generation of AS and A-level syllabuses asks geography candidates to undertake independent enquiries based on fieldwork. These two books, in different ways, will act as useful support both to teachers and students in the acquisition of skills and choice of suitable projects.
Fieldwork Ideas in Action provides well-organised spreads on more than 40 project topics, helpfully breaking down each one into component parts. There are sections on starting points; geographical links to your syllabus; primary and secondary data collection; ideas for recording and analysing data, suggestions about interpretation and drawing conclusions. There are also pointers to other resources but these do not usually lead to completed examples of similar work. Seventeen of the topics suggested are primarily physical geography; another 10 deal with varieties of environmental impact assessment. Students will be able to find both a possible end product and a practical means to achieving it after consulting this text.
A-Z Fieldwork, produced in conjunction with the Field Studies Council, is more a book for rowsing, but it is packed with information and advice. Though aimed specifically at AS-level, its usefulness is wider. There are examples of data, extracts from exam board specifications, a list of project titles and their likely difficulty, and suggestions about time-budgets and resources to use. The alphabetical ramble through fieldwork ideas and techniques works well, though the authors run out of steam towards the end. The friendly, direct style is likely to appeal to student readers. The first sentence is: "The aim of this book is to help you sleep at night", quirkily adjacent to a picture of gravestones. On page 6 (project planning), a size comparison of a human brain (encouragingly showing room for fieldwork project ideas as well as social life) and a rat's brain is accompanied by an illustration of Edvard Munch's The Scream.
The key issue is value for money; Gill Miller's book is four times the price of the GA publication, but the GA's has more pages, is full-colour as against black and white, and is livelier in design. Departments that feel no economic pinch would benefit from having both on their shelves, but there is no doubt which is better value.
Rex Walford was formerly geography PGCE tutor at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of Wolfson College, Cambridge