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.

A map of % of the population aged 16-24 in part of Derby. Green colours represent areas over the national average, red colours represents areas below the national average. Example of mapped 2011 census data in Derby by © OpenStreetMap contributors / Open Database Licence.

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 questionsSub 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 conceptResearch question or sub question
InequalityHas recent economic change reinforced or reduced inequality?
Resilience / GlobalisationHow resilient is place x to economic change caused by globalisation?
Mitigation and adaptationHas government intervention mitigated against the decline of manufacturing at x?
Mitigation and adaptationHow 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.

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