GEOG 571
Intelligence Analysis, Cultural Geography, and Homeland Security

Research Preparation and Format


Recommended Steps in Preparing Your Research Project. 

  • Step 1: Select a topic from the list and get approval
  • Step 2: Narrow the topic
  • Step 3: State your thesis (your thesis can and should evolve)
  • Step 4: Conduct initial research and develop a preliminary bibliography
  • Step 5: Prepare a working outline
  • Step 6: Research and take notes
  • Step 7: Refine your outline
  • Step 8: Write a rough draft
  • Step 9: Edit your project
  • Step 10: Prepare your final draft

Developing and Organizing Your Research Project. 

This is general guidance to help you develop and organize your research project. Please note that this is not intended to be an inflexible template. Use your judgment about how to best state, defend, and communicate your position.

The project is to be a coherent written (or alternative) argument. I have found key elements of successful projects to be:

  • Thesis. The project’s thesis is a brief statement of your argument. The thesis includes both your research question and your answer to it. Specific questions are essential in this course for a good research project. A question such as “Does globalization hurt us?” is far too broad. “Where has globalization had the greatest impact on the US economy?” is a better and more specific geographic question. Your thesis might look like:

Economic globalization is doing more harm than good, and it should be discontinued; the practice has caused the industrial heartland of the United States to become vulnerable to unemployment, poverty, economic decline, and out-migration.

  • Evidence. Evidence is a piece of information that supports a conclusion. Evidence can be developed from primary data, research, case studies, or field study. You can also use existing information (e.g., publications) that is combined in an original fashion. Seek evidence that leads to a defensible and concrete conclusion. An important approach is to look for biases and faulty underlying assumptions.
  • Analysis. Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic into smaller sub-units to get a precise understanding of the whole by reducing the complexity. When you analyze, break apart the different ideas and examine the foundation of other ideas or positions for biases and assumptions.
  • Synthesis. Synthesis is a process that creates something new. Here you explore each idea or assumption as it connects to the bigger picture. You are trying to put together the parts that have already been analyzed with other ideas or concepts to form something new or original. You are looking for insights and new ideas to form a conclusion.

General Approaches (Methods). 

Your research project should generally take one the following approaches.

  • Hypothesis Testing. Hypothesis testing is used when you test a set of hypotheses against specific evidence. Hypothesis testing is generally used to demonstrate cause and effect relationships. This approach is most commonly used in quantitative studies (i.e., studies that use statistical methods as their primary mode of analysis).
  • Analytic Narrative. An Analytic Narrative develops an interpretation, qualitative evaluation, or historical analysis of human geographic phenomena. Most appropriately, analytic narrative projects can be used to discuss geographic developments in an historical context.

Report Format.

1. Introduction. Give a brief overview of the project that tells the reader what to expect from your work. State your thesis, and your expected results and/or hypotheses.

2. Literature Review. A literature review summarizes and discusses the relevant scholarly research (e.g., academic articles and books) and gray literature (e.g., official reports by government agencies or analyses by think tanks) with regard to your thesis. This serves two functions: first, if you know what people have studied, you can determine the ‘gaps’ in the research that serve as a starting point for your work (i.e., it identifies what’s missing from our understanding). Second, it helps justify and situate your work within a broader context. That is, it identifies what your work adds to our understanding and why that’s important.

3. Theoretical framework. Summarize and discuss any relevant concepts introduced in the course reading materials (including online lectures). Draw on additional theoretical materials (go to our sources!) and explain how you are using these concepts in your research project. This section might not be necessary for some projects but will be important for others. If you aren’t sure whether your project should include a theoretical framework, contact your instructor.

4. Methodology and Evidence. Describe the methods, techniques and/or research design that you used. Explain how you collected your evidence. Give enough detail so that someone could duplicate your research.

5. Analysis and Discussion. Offer interpretations of the set of evidence based on  theories. What is your evidence? “Digest” the evidence. What does it mean? What are the important patterns? What new concepts can you form? Discuss the significance of your results for your question. Are these results expected or unexpected? What new or alternative theory might explain your results? This is the most important part of a research project, as it is where you demonstrate the strength and importance of your argument.

6. Conclusion. Briefly return to the “big picture.” Restate your thesis and state your results. Include a brief discussion of the shortcomings and possible future research.