This is Part 1 of a 2-part post. Part 2 is here.

Every subject you study asks questions – about this world and our place in the scheme of things. This leads to a particular way of looking at our world, understanding its dynamics, and taking action to make things better for ourselves. When we use an academic subject in this way, it becomes a discipline.

One of my big complaints about geography education in India today is that geography is not taught in relation to the places where you live. If you can’t see geography at work in your own environment, it is difficult to find it interesting. Therefore, most geography education in our schools delivers the subject, not the discipline.

My interest in today’s column is to get you to ask geographic questions. This is perhaps the best way to understand geography both as a subject of study and a discipline of inquiry. I’ll share a few examples with you and end the column with a suggestion. You may think of some other topic and do your research.

In each case, try to ask the geography questions at your local scale – your neighborhood, city area, city, etc.

Topic: Climographs (climatographs). The climate data for your city is very likely available online in MS Excel .xlsx format and in .xls format. Using these data, you can create climographs for many places in India, perhaps also for the city you live in. Include the place where you live in this.

Geographic questions:

  • Which are the hottest and coldest months in the year for each place I studied?
  • Which is the highest and lowest rainfall month?
  • How is the climograph for my place different from other places of different latitudes, altitudes, locations, etc.?
  • Why are they different?
  • What commodities are sold in different parts of the year in your area? (Fruits, vegetables, clothing, foods, etc.)
  • Are the data suitable for comparison – e.g.: some places may have data for 100 years while others may have for only 30 years; is this a problem; why or why not?


  • Using these data, in MS Excel or similar program, you can create climographs for a variety of cities.
  • Try to find the information for the city in which you live! (Very important!)
  • Look at the example of a climograph given.
  • Want to learn how to make a climograph? Not very complicated. Contact TIIGS and we will teach you.


Climograph for Bangalore

Climograph for Bangalore


Topic: Local water issues (natural and human-made). Water supply and sewage disposal (the system of sewage disposal is called sewerage) are vital for all places where people live. We take in fresh (hopefully clean) water for drinking, cooking, washing, etc. and the ‘waste’ materials flow out with the used water. It is vital that both of these keep flowing.

Geographic questions:

  • Where is the water supply for my locality and the city I live in coming from?
  • How is this water supplied? (Through municipal water supply pipes? Water tankers delivering bore-well water? Bore-well water stored in a sump at your premises? Etc.)
  • What are some of the chemical and biological features of this water as it comes out of the taps at home? (Get your science teacher’s help.)
  • Where does the water go when it leaves your house, your locality, your city etc.?
  • How does it travel? Open drains, closed drains, etc.
  • Are the sewage channels connected to each other?
  • Are storm water drains (especially in front of houses in your locality) clogged or clear? To what extent? Why?


  • Collect data regarding the geographic questions you choose to study. Perhaps your local municipal corporation can provide it to you.
  • Prepare maps showing the water networks for your locality, area, city, etc.
  • Take photographs that can illustrate the points you make in your research.
  • What are the problems you identify in the area?
  • Recommend possible solutions to the problem? Can you implement them in some way?

Topic: Natural and human-planted vegetation. Green plants are very vital to have as ‘lungs’ for any place we live in. They help remove carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. In human settlements, human-planted vegetation is dominant. Our management of the greenery of the place we live in is a vital part of good urban health.

Geographic questions:

  • In my locality, what are the different types of trees present? Which of these are in public places (e.g.: streets, parks) and which are in private places (e.g.: gardens, private property)?
  • Where did these trees originate and come to India?
  • Is there a pattern of where the trees are in our locality? E.g.: are trees distributed by age? By species?
  • Is there a database of where the trees in my area are located?
  • Why should we know about these trees as geographers?


  • Prepare a map of your locality on a sheet of paper. Form a team of maximum 3 people and walk up and down your neighborhood and mark the trees and other important landmarks on that map. How will you show the different types of trees?
  • Remember: your map may not be to scale, but it must certainly be oriented to the north.
  • If you have access to the internet, you can use GoogleEarth, GoogleMaps, or something similar to create your map online.
  • Document your work with photographs, paintings, drawings, or other audio-visual means.
  • What can you recommend to improve the tree cover in your area?

Why geographic research?

When we do research in any discipline it is important to share it with others. We do this for a variety of reasons such as:

  • We can raise important issues for discussion and debate among people are directly affected, people who have expertise, and those who have responsibilities for issues in a place.
  • We can share it with professional geographers and get their feedback on what we have done well or not well. We can also get suggestions on how to improve our research so that we ask the right questions, do our research in the best ways, and communicate our results effectively.
  • We develop our skills of identifying an issue (or problem), understanding it by asking pertinent geographic questions about them, researching the issue, analyzing the information we collect, drawing conclusions about the issue, and recommending ways of addressing the issues.

No matter which field you eventually end up in, these skills will be of great help.

Well, if you do undertake any such geographic research, you can present it at the National Geography Youth Summit – 2014. Read the details and guidelines here.

For additional help in preparing and posting your research on the NGYS-2014 website, contact us.

(A version of this appears in the Student Edition of Deccan Herald on Monday, 10 March 2014.)

Part 2 of the 2-part post is here.


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