Phases, Stages and Steps in Geographic Investigation & Research


"Facts are meaningful only when they can be attached to ideas. Unless students are taught a system for learning or processing information, facts are of little use to them." (R.S.Wurman, Information Anxiety. 1989, p.153)

Pre-Scientific (Pre-Academic) Modes of Activity

Stage 1: Towards more Academic Modes of Activity

Stage 2: Application & Research Preparations

Stage 3: Investigative and Research Phase: Designing The Research Plan

  1. What shall be studied? How do you come up with a research idea? Defining issues, problems, questions and/or formulating hypotheses embedded in your theoretical framework (see above)
    • identifying and clarifying questions and issues
    • Resource Stage #??: searching the literature (again) and the established body of theory for explanations [We have thus conceptualized three kinds of resource & library work and literature review, namely
      1. All library work needed to gain research skills (see above)
      2. the one which familiarizes you with the general context and background which lead you to your research topic.
      3. Once your research topic is selected, you need to review the literature again for the more focused search for explanations, tentative answers and methodologies related to your research problem.]
    • developing and justifying one or more hyptheses as conjectural statements or tentative propositions as to expected relationships in search of explanations of the specific circumstances at hand (tentative explanations of similarities, differences, correlations, interactions and /or processes of change)

  2. Understanding the Purpose of the Research

  3. Resources: The Second Visit to the Library: Review of Literature in Preparation of the Theoretical Framework
    • Theoretical Framework: The first step toward theory formation. When we develop a new theory, we do so in a theoretical context which, if formalized, would amount to a theoretical framework. In this framework, we relate variables to eachother in a causal manner; these variables are based on concepts which were already part of our implicit or explicit conceptualization process and had become part of our foundational conceptualframework. Conceptual and theoretical frameworks are essential if our research shall make a contribution to theoretical advances in our discipline, since we want to communicate our ideas through agreed-upon concepts and conceptual relations, and we wish to link our new theoretical ideas to a specified, already existing body of theoretical ideas. For your own student research, the most important role of a conceptual --> theoretical framework is likely to be your own individual frame of reference which helps you to place your findings and insights into your own larger learning context.

      Examples for the Role of Theory in Different Disciplines:

  4. Who or What should be studied and how does this (to be delineated) population of people, firms or other phenomena relate to the issues...

  5. Evaluating and selecting methods of investigation,
    • Resource Stage #????
      • Searching for and evaluating sources of data (appropriate for stated hyptheses and selected methodology)

Stage 4: Research Proposal: Before we are actually starting with any empirical research, you want to be sure that you are "on the right track". If your framework and methodology are accepted and you do everything you are proposing, you should be free and clear. Often, the remainder seems anti-climatic. You have almost answered all of the questions already which had originally bothered you through simple logic and literature searches. Now it may just be a matter of looking at the specific hypotheses which remained unresolved after all this thinking, researching and organizing.

Research and Writing Guides (References)

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