Author: Viv Straw

Research Methods for Geographers part 1

As Geographers and associated professionals such as planners there is a time when we will need to begin to look at a subject matter and have a need to delve deeper into the merits of a matter or the issues that we are dealing with. Often we are much too busy just doing the job and practising the arts that we have had the opportunity to learn at university or have learned on the job and through natural processes of professional development. But there comes a time when that is just not enough and we want or need to know more about a subject. So, How do we go about that, how do we begin to add to the knowledge base that we have accumulated or that our profession has accumulated? Ultimately there are three things that we need to do when we research an issue: find out what is known and work out what we think the gaps are in the knowledge, find a method to fill the gaps we have identified, Write up the results of our findings. To add to the knowledge base we need to work out how we know what we know and then work out how we are going to add to the knowledge we have. To understand this process we first need to work out: How do we acquire knowledge and add...

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Research Methods for Geographers part 2

This is the second instalment of the research methods and research design work that we are putting on this post. It is based on a lecture by Don Fleming Associate Dean (Research) University of Canberra… In the first segment we looked at the question of how do we know things and how do we add to the vast store of human knowledge? In this post we will be asking ourselves what types of questions we can ask ourselves about our subject area and how will they will help us to add to the  store of human knowledge. But  why do I as a geographer need do research? Especially if I work in a policy making area, teach or work for an NGO, these seem to run more on process than research. The future will require more and more of a scientific basis for our activity as geographers, if we can’t keep ahead of the game, we will loose our way. And Geography nearly did loose its way in the ’70’s and ’80’s giving rise to many offshoots that carried our purpose on for us. Research and policy are like cousins; good policy should emanate from a thesis that is supported through well organised research. The research process will refine the question or thesis until it is one that can be answered in the context of the issues. Teaching, policy...

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