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The meaning of geographic research

Geographic research is a scientific investigation that involves the collection, analysis and interpretation of data to generate knowledge on the geographical phonomena. Examples are global warming, earthquake and environmental pollution.

Importance of geographic research

(i) For planning. It useful for making proper decision. For example Urban planning, waste management and hydro electric power plant.

(ii) Understanding principles and laws of nature in the universe. For example gravitational force, movement of the earth and solar system.

(iii) For searching new knowledge. Every research should contribute to existing body of knowledge.

(iv) For solving problems in the society. Research helps to know cause and solution of the problem. For example land pollution.

(v) For developing various programmes and policies. For example population policy and family planning in Tanzania.

(vi) For testing validity of theories. It can be used to test validity or developing existing theory. For example disappearance of planet Pluto from the solar system can be proved by doing geographic research.

(vii) Informing the citizens about the social-economic activities. All information about social-economic activities are collected through population census.

(viii) It creates employment opportunities to researchers. Others are employed either temporary or permanent.

(ix) It clarifies confusion. It helps to clarify completed facts. For example formation of continents, universe solar system and causes of climatic change.

Types of and approach to research

Types of research

Research is mainly of two types

(i) Basic research (Fundamental research)

(ii) Applied research (Action research)

(i) Basic research. This type of research focus on advancement of knowledge rather than solving specific practical problem. For example conducting a research on causes of earthquakes and deforestation.

(ii) Applied research. This type of research focus on solving particular problem. For example conducting a research farmer pastoral conflicts.

Approach to research

(i) Quantitative research approach

(ii) Qualitative research approach

(i) Quantitative research approach. This type of research approach is based on the measurement of quantity or amount. For example of phenomena are population data, crops and minerals. These data may include height, weight, distance, age and any information that can be assigned by numerical value. For example of method of data collection is survey that uses research tool of questionnaire with closed-ended questions

(ii) Qualitative research approach. This approach based on gathering non-numerical data. For example people's opinions, views and narratives. It uses method which seek to develop deep understanding how people perceive in social realities. For example of methods of data collection are observation, interview. Focus group discussion and oral stories.

Research data

This is information collected from different sources to describe a certain phenomenon.

Types of data in research

(i) Primary data

(ii) Secondary data

(i) Primary data are data collected directly from the source as first hand information. For example data collected from experiments.

(ii) Secondary data are data collected from research done by other researchers. For example published documents like books, papers or prepared report from various organizations.

Field research 

This is task of collecting data physically from field.

Advantages of field research

(i) It helps to understand the relationship between human being and natural environment

(ii) It provides firsthand experience and knowledge about people, events and process of study.

(iii) It provides practical knowledge to researchers. Through selecting, observing, reporting and presenting geographical data from the field.

(iv) it helps the researchers to observe the relationship between various things, events behaviour and trends. For example application of farm input with crop production.

Challenges of field research

(i) It is expensive

(ii) Time consuming

(iii) It can involve biasness

(iv) Documentation of observation is usually difficult. It is difficult to write your notes later and also is not easy to decide which details to write down.

(v) Lack of trust from community members

(vii) Sensitive topic may cause inaccessible of data or respondents. For sale example farm pastoral conflict.

(viii) The researchers to be inflexible because of financial resources, time and unexpected events.

Stages of conducting a geographic research work

(i) Identification and formulation of geographic research problems

(ii) Literature review

(iii) Research Objective

(iv) Formulation of hypothesis and research questions

(v) Pre survey or reconnaissance

(vi) Determination a research design

(vii) Selecting a target population and sample

(viii) Data collection

(ix) Data processing and analysis

(x) Testing of hypothesis

(xi) Data presentation and interpretation

(xii) Report writing

(i) Identification and formulation of geographic research problems

-The research problems should be identified and stated clearly.

-The researcher should identify the topic of interest relevant to geographic research. For example urbanization or environmental pollution.

- A research problem is developed to show a gap in knowledge that is needed to be filled. 

- For example if topic of interest is Climatic change there should be knowledge on the causes and effects. That should be observed to fill the gap.

Sources of geographic research problems

(i) Personal experience. For example people living in urban area experience issues such as traffic congestion and environmental pollution that act as a source of geographic research problem.

(ii)Mass media. For example the conflict between farmers and pastoralists in Kilosa District reported in 2008.

(iii) Literature review. For example publication documents like paper, books and prepared report from other institutions.

(iv) Consultation with experts. Experts may help to find a current problem to be solved in particular discipline.

(v) Practical experience. A researcher can get idea from work place. For example teacher can develop a problem on why student perform poorly in practical geography subject.

(vi) Social issues. The problem can be obtained from society. For example traffic congestion in Urban.

(vii) Monitoring and evaluation activities. This could be the end of the year company evaluation if goals and objectives achieved otherwise to develop a problems for purpose of finding solution.

Steps in developing a geographic research problem

(i) Identify an issue that requires research attention. That can be issues facing society or adding knowledge.

(ii) State what would be favourable situation if that issue is resolved.

(iii) State what the current situation is that exists in relative to the favourable situation.

(iv) Review the literature available to determine whether there has been any research documents to fill the knowledge gap.

(v) Show how important is your research in filling that knowledge gap.

Characteristics of good geographic research problem

(i) It should be clear. Not every problem is researchable.

(ii) it should be clear stated. The language used should not be ambiguous or too technical.

(iii) it should be time limited. It should be conducted at a specific time to achieve the goals.

(iv) It should generate new knowledge

(v) It should be researchable. A topic must be done interm of cost,time and experts.

(ii) Literature review

This is process of reading various publications or documents to gain knowledge of research problem. 

Importance of literature in research

(i) It provides understanding of topic. How is it researched hence to know method of data collection and analysis.

(ii) It helps to build on previous research rather than duplicating findings.

(iii) It enables to know the relevance of different theories and principle relating to identified topic

(iv) It helps the researcher to build rationale for conducting the research.

(v) it helps to explain the relationship between previous study and current study

(vi) It helps to discover unanswered questions on subject or research problem.

(vii) It helps to understand the strength and weakness of a research design and methodology in previous research.

(iii) Research Objective

Research Objective are categorized into general and specific objective.

The general objective seeks to give response to research problem while specific objective break down the general objective into small logical part. Specific object address direct to research problem

Specific objective has the following criteria abbreviated as SMART 

Specific: the statement should focus on specific issues

Measurable: it should consist of measurable valuables.

Attainable: Those objectives should be achievable

Realistic: Those objectives must be relevant or  focus to outcome.

Time: Those objectives must be accomplished within a specific time limit.

(iv) Formulation of hypothesis and research questions

-Hypothesis is a predication statement for outcome or result.

- Hypothesis and research questions show relationship between variables

-Qualitative research uses research questions while quantitative research uses hypothesis.

Types of hypothesis

(i) The alternative hypothesis (positive hypothesis)

(ii) The null hypothesis (negative hypothesis)

(i) The alternative hypothesis. This suggests the existence of relationship between variables. For example climatic change is caused by deforestation. The variables of study are climatic change and deforestation.

(ii) The null hypothesis. This suggests absence of relationship between variables. For example climatic change is not caused by deforestation.

Variables are measurable characteristic in a research.

Types of variables

(i) independent variable

(ii) Dependent variable

(i) independent variable. This is type of variables that affect another variable.

(ii) Dependent variable. This ia type of variable that is influenced by independent variable. Also is known as outcome variable.

For example climatic change is caused by deforestation. Here climatic change is dependent variable while deforestation is independent variable because the change of climate is caused by deforestation.

(v) Pre-survey or reconnaissance

-Pre-survey or reconnaissance refers to a brief survey of the study area or site. 

- It helps a research to get familiar with area of study

- Also to determine the method of data collection and avoiding problems may arise during research.

Importance of pre survey or reconnaissance

(i) Finalise the selection of the study area for field data collection.

(ii) Collect preliminary information

(iii) Familiarize with area of study

(iv) Prepare work plan for conducting research activities

(v) Identify logistical requirements based on local condition and plan for field data collection.

(vi) Determination a research design

This is arrangement or framework on how data will be collected and analysed.

It consists of research method and techniques chosen by researcher.

 (vii)Selecting a target population and sample

 A research target specific population. A population in geography can be animals, objects, institutions or human with common characteristics that are interested to researcher.  For example if you study maize farming in Shinyanga Region the population will be only farmer who produce maize. 

Due to financial and time limitation a researcher should select sample from target population

Sample is a subset of target population chosen from that population

Sampling is process of selecting individual member of target population.

Types of sampling techniques

(i)  Probability sampling 

(i) Non Probability sampling

(i)  Probability sampling 

This is type of sampling whereby every individual in population has equal chance to be included in the sample.

(a) Simple random sampling: This type of probability sampling whereby members has an equal chance to be selected in a study. For example name of participants are written on piece of paper and placed in container where selection is made.

This method helps to avoid bias.

(b) Stratified sampling: individuals are selected from different strata. For example selecting 4 students from five schools to have total sample of 20 students.

(c) Cluster sampling: It involves random selection of groups and each member in a group participates in a study

(d) Systematic sampling : It involves selecting of the sample in a regular interval

(i) Non Probability sampling

This is type of sampling whereby not every member has an equal chance to be selected in a study.

(a) Purposive sampling: The sample is selected according to the purpose. For example pastoralist:

(b) Quota sampling: is non probability version of stratified sampling. The selection is known from subject

(c) Snowball sampling: The researcher select a few people to participate in answering questions of the problem then assign them to select members who will continue to answer questions.

(d) Convenience sampling: This sample is selected only the people who are easily found for the sample needed

Characteristics of a good sample

(i) Representativeness: It must represent the whole target population. For example both male and female

(ii) Accuracy: This is degree from absence of bias

(iii) Adequacy in size: a sample should be enough in size to reliable data.

(viii)Data collection

This is process of gathering information and answers research questions, test hypothesis and evaluate research outcome.

Data collection method and tools

(i) Survey: is method of collecting data from pre defined group of respondents.

A research tool designed used in survey is called questionnaire.

A questionnaire is a series of questions that can be open ended or closed ended questions

Characteristics of good questionnaire

(i) It should clear explain the aim of study

(ii) it should have simple questions

(iii) Questions should start simple to complex

(iv) Questions should be arranged in a logical sequence.

(v) Avoid personal and sensitive questions

(vi) Questions should be clear

(vii) Questions should be short

Advantages of questionnaire

(i) It can be easily quantified during analysis. Especially using statistical product and service solution (SPSS)

(ii) Data can be compared

(iii) It can collect large amount of information

(iv)It is relative cost

(v) Data can be generalized to the entire population.

Challenges of questionnaire

(i) It is not flexible since questions are structured in advance.

(ii) It based for literacy people

 (iii) There is possibility of losing material.

(ii) Interview

This is verbal interaction between interviewee and interviewer. Interview is most used to collect qualitative data.

The research tool used to collect during interview is called interview guide

Advantages of interview method

(i) It involves both literate and illiterate respondents.

(ii) It enables a researcher to be sure respondents understand the questions

(iii) The interviewer can clarify and elaborate the purpose of research clearly.

(iv) It can employ observation technique

(v) it is more flexible than questionnaire

(vi) Information can be checked its validity from body language

Challenges of an interview method

(i) It is time consuming.

(ii) Respondents may provide wrong information

(iii) It cannot provide reliable information happened long time ago

(iv) It faced by language barrier

(v) Failure of recording interviewee responses

Principle of conducting an interview

(i) Explain briefly the purpose of the interview to the interviewee.

(ii) Create friendly atmosphere for the interviewee to speak comfortably.

(iii) Assuring the interviewee information provided would be confidential.

(iv) Avoid unnecessary interruption 

(v) Use simple language

(vi) Avoid ambiguous questions

(iii) Focus group discussion

This method involves an intensive discussion done by a small group of 5 to 8 people.

The research tool used in FGD is called checklist

Advantages of focus group discussion 

(i) Large amount of data can be collected from small group of participants

(ii) It provides room for participants to understand the topic.

(iii) it consume low cost

(iv) Allow critical thinking to participants

(v) Makes the research topic to be live and interesting 

Challenges of focus group discussion

(i) Members may not in a good position to contribute on a particular topic.

(ii) It is not easy to analyse and compile data through this method.

(iii) Participants may extend the discussion

(iv) Some participants may dominate the discussion

(v) It is time consuming.

(vi) Very small size involved

(vii) Selection of sample may be affected by biases

(iv) Observation

This is method of data collection that allows a researcher to use their sense organs to examine people in the field.

Types of observation

(i) Participatory observation

(ii) Non Participatory observation

Participatory observation: This is direct observation. A researcher becomes part and parcel of people under study.

Non Participatory observation: This method a researcher observe without participating in life of those people.

Advantages of observation method

(i) It provides correct data since a researcher observe the incidents.

(ii) First hand information are easily recorded

(iii) The method helps to develop skills such as recording, observing and interpretation of geographical phenomena.

(iv) The method is reliable since data are collected at first hand.

Challenges of observation method

(i) It is time consuming

(ii) it is risk to researcher

(iii)  The method is not suitable for large population.

(iv) it can involves biasness

(v) Some geographical phenomena may not easily obtain.

(ix) Data processing and analysis

Data processing: It involves manipulation of raw data into their readable form. It includes validation, sorting calculation, classification and data organization.

Data analysis: It involves cleaning, analyzing, interpreting and visualizing data to discover any inconvenience.

(x) Testing of hypothesis

The researcher needs to test the hypothesis if facts provided relate with research questions

(xi) Data presentation and interpretation

Data presentation: The presentation of data depends on the type of data , qualitative data is presented in textual format while quantitative data is presented by statistical way like graphs, table and digram.

Data interpretation: It involves drawing conclusion based on facts collected and analysed. 

It based on implication of finding.

(xii) Report writing 

A researcher has to prepare a report of what has been done.

A report has three parts

(a) Preliminary pages

(b) Main body

(c) Supplementary pages

Preliminary pages

It carries title of the research, declaration, and copyright, certification, abstract, dedication, table of content and acknowledgement.

Main body

This part consists of introduction, literature review, methodology, research findings and discussion, summary, conclusion and recommendation.

(a) Introduction

It contains background to the research problem, statement of the research problem, research objectives, research questions or hypothesis, scope of the study and significance of the study

 (b) Literature review

In this part a researcher establish the knowledge gap from existing gap from existing literature.

(C) Methodology

It shows how the research is conducted and research tools used to conduct a research

(d) Research finding and discussion

Qualitative data are presented in form of textual while quantitative data can be presented in form of statistical manner.

(e) Summary, conclusion and recommendation.

This section provides a summary of the whole study and drawing conclusion from the study.

(c) Supplementary pages

It involves Bibliography and appendices whereby Bibliography is a list of reference consulted when writing a report. 

References are list of all reading materials cited in the report.

Appendices include copies of research tools, research permits and other information.

Ethical consideration

This includes clearance from authority.

Ethical issues is important to ensure confidentiality of respondents 

A researcher must protect a respondent physically and psychologically.

Information collected should be used for only intended purpose

A researcher should be honest and respectful to the respondents

Uses of research findings and recommendations

  • It can help to identify area for further study
  • It used to solve problems happen in society
  • It enable the researcher to determine the need of society
  • It helps to formulate and develop principles, laws and theory
  • It helps to develop government policy
  • It helps to develop the society


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