"Writing is the primary tool geographers use to collaborate as they address global problems."
~John Grolle, Associate Professor of Geography
The study of Geography relies on writing to describe, analyze and present research results related to both global and local problems and issues. These include such global issues as famine, global warming, population patterns, and climate monitoring. Geography also plays a role in local issues, such as traffic patterns, law enforcement, and safety.
The Geographer studies a wide array of physical and cultural phenomena from a spatial perspective. While effectively crafted maps allow a visual interpretation of these data, effective writing is equally important in analyzing and explaining the world’s myriad physical and cultural phenomena.
Writing assignments are generally of two types:
Common writing assignments include the following:
Depending on the course, students may also write summary/response papers and answers to essay questions on exams.
See A Guide to Writing Geography Papers (80kB)
1. Keep arguments as concise as possible. Do not include extraneous information in an attempt to fill space.
2. Paraphrase material to avoid excessive use of quotations.
3. Ensure that a logical progression connects the evidence that supports your argument.
4. Integrate classroom lectures and textbook readings into the written assignment. This shows the instructor you are able to apply what has been learned through class to that particular assignment.
5. Provide an objective examination of an issue when writing research papers. Personal anecdotes and reactions are not appropriate.
6. When a topic is controversial, introduce counterpoints, and explain to the reader why this argument is less scientifically sound than the argument which you are supporting.
See A Guide to Writing Geography Papers for specific information regarding research strategies, organization patterns, citation conventions, and use of charts, tables, photos and maps.
Geography uses a wide range of evidence and support, including maps, photos, charts, graphs, and satellite images. All of these are essential tools for geographers.
The two most relevant journals in Geography are Science andNature. The most often-used databases are Science Direct and GEOBASE. Using these resources (which link from the Library website) ensures that students are basing their writing on authoritative sources.
Citation styles are determined by individual instructors, based on the level of the course; consult with your instructor for any questions.
One of the most marketable skills taught in Geography is the use of GIS (Geographic Information Systems). Many types of jobs demand GIS training: land use planning, educational administration, law enforcement, national/state/community government.
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