A place is a portion of geographic space with a distinctive identity. Places have four elements: physical site, people, economic functions and cultural landscape. Each of these elements interact and can change over time. There are also inward and outward flows of people, resources, money and investment between each place and other connected places.
What questions do geographers ask?
Datashine is a good starting point for exploring different places. Explore a map view of 2011 census data for your home area.
Why are there so many young adults living close to Derby city centre? What issues might this cause?
Explore the maps at Mapping London, such as Lives on the Line, which shows life expectancy and child poverty levels using the London Underground map. Could you adapt any of these ideas to part of a city that you know?
For investigating health inequalities, the Marmot Review gives a list of indicators that you could consider.
What could you investigate by fieldwork?
Here are some examples. Each research question has been split into 2 or 3 sub-questions.
|Research questions||Sub questions|
|How and why is village x more deprived than village y?||What are the economic, social and environmental differences between the two villages? Why are there economic, social and environmental differences between the two villages?|
|Has the growth of new industry at place x reduced inequality?||How has the amount and pattern of economic inequality at place x changed in the last 20 years? To what extent is this change due to the growth of new industry or are there other factors?|
|How successful are the government intervention strategies used at place x?||What have been the main government interventions? A comparison of the amount and pattern of economic inequality before and after the government interventions. To what extent is this change due to the government interventions or are there other factors?|
Specialised geographical concepts
A good way to demonstrate challenge in your choice of research question and/or sub questions is to consider one or more of the specialised geographical concepts. Here are a few suggestions:
|Specialised concept||Research question or sub question|
|Inequality||Has recent economic change reinforced or reduced inequality?|
|Resilience / Globalisation||How resilient is place x to economic change caused by globalisation?|
|Mitigation and adaptation||Has government intervention mitigated against the decline of manufacturing at x?|
|Mitigation and adaptation||How has the CBD at x adapted to the growth of online retailing and out-of-town shopping centres?|
Choosing a fieldwork location
Concentrate on a manageable area. This should be somewhere in scale between a street and a city or region, such as whole or a part of a city’s Central Business District, one or more urban neighbourhoods, or a whole village or small town. Bear in mind that secondary data is often most easily obtained at the scale of a council ward.
Here are some ideas for fieldwork investigations to consider. They are taken from Fieldwork Ideas in Action (copyright Gill Miller, 2000). Each link will open a pdf directly.
- Analysis of land use patterns in the central area of a town
- An exercise to delimit the central area of a town
- Comparative analysis of a CBD and an out-of-town retail centre
- Comparative analyses of the socio-economic characteristics of different areas in a town
- A study of industrial development in a town
- Analysis of traffic flows in a rural area
- Analysis of the patterns of crime and deprivation in an urban area