This, the concluding part of “Doing geography research”, contains two examples of how to ask the “four geography questions” and how you may consider presenting your research. (Read Part 1)

Our age

Anthropocene is the name given to the current age – ‘The Age of the Humans.” Beginning with the Industrial Revolution and the development of nuclear and other technologies, human beings have become very powerful forces of change in Earth’s environment.

Doing geography research

  • Identify a topic
    • Observe your neighborhood and see what interests you:
      • Something that makes you angry or sad
      • Something that makes you really happy and hopeful
      • Something that makes you say, “H’mmm… I wonder why that is so?”
    • That is your research topic.
    • Once you have identified the topic, ask your research question: For example:
      • “What do people in my neighborhood feel about garbage thrown everywhere?”
      • “What do people in my neighborhood feel is a good solution to garbage being thrown everywhere?”
      • “What do people like most about our neighborhood’s roads?” (or drains, or green cover …)
      • “What do children who play in the streets think about playing elsewhere?’
      • “Why are the ATMs in my neighborhood located where they are?”
      • “How does my neighborhood make itself easier for those with disabilities?”
    • Then, ask the “four geography questions” (given further below) about that topic.

For this you will need a combination of two kinds of research:

  • Primary research:  research that you conduct yourself and find the information you need. Examples: interviewing people, taking measurements, taking photographs, making maps, making visual observations.
  • Secondary research: finding the information you want from other sources. Examples: online sources, research reports, newspaper or magazine articles, government documents such as census, gazette, etc.

Asking the four geography questions

  1. Where is something?
  2. Why is it there?
  3. What is the consequence of it being there?
  4. What if something were to change?

For anything on Earth, if we use these four questions, we can develop a fairly good geographic understanding of it. Here are two examples:

Example 1: Garbage in the streets of my neighborhood.

1.     Where is it? ·      At street corners, in heaps.
2.     Why is it there? ·      People do not care.

·      There are no proper rubbish collection bins.

3.     What is the consequence of it being there? (“So what?”) ·      It stinks.

·      Clogs up the foot path.

·      Attracts disease carrying animals (mosquitoes, flies, dogs, etc.)

·      Pollutes the environment in various ways.

4.     What if something were to change? (“What if?”) ·      If bins are provided at that spot, it will be easier to keep the rubbish in the bins and take it from there.

·      People can be persuaded to not put rubbish outside the bin.

·      If rubbish can be collected door to door every day and taken away, then people may not throw the rubbish at the corner.

·      The various kinds of pollution would be reduced.

Example 2: Cutting of trees in our neighborhood.

1.     Where is it? ·      The public trees are along the streets of our neighborhood.

·      These trees are being cut down now.

2.     Why is it there? ·      They were planted many years ago to provide shade, make the rains fall more gently on to the ground, and to beautify the neighborhood.

·      They are being cut down to widen roads to allow more vehicle traffic to move through the neighborhood.

3.     What is the consequence of it being there? (“So what?”) ·      The trees provided shade, reduce noise and dust pollution, etc.

·      Cutting them down takes away all that and has bad effects on the health of people in the neighborhood.

4.     What if something were to change? (“What if?”) ·      If alternate routes can be provided for traffic to move, it would ease traffic on the particular road.

·      This would mean the trees don’t have to be cut down.

·      The neighborhood’s environmental quality can be maintained well.

 A version of this article appeared in the Deccan Herald Student Edition of 23 June 2016.

Join us for the International Geography Youth Summit – 2016
(links to details are on the left)


Featured image: Students mapping the neighborhood, Bengaluru, 2014. © The Institute of Geographical Studies, 2014.


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