GEOG 885
Advanced Analytic Methods for the GEOINT Professional

SGAM Step 1: The Analytic Question


The question, or analytical problem, can be viewed as an active two-way interface between the client requiring the information and the geospatial analyst supplying it. The problem defines the geospatial patterns the analyst is seeking. Foraging and sensemaking define the nature of the analysis and quality in this context is defined as satisfying the client. A geospatial question that leads to the sensemaking process must meet four criteria of:

  • At least one plausible explanation exists with some geospatial aspect.
  • Counter-explanations are possible.
  • The hypotheses can be defined sufficiently with respect to the geospatial aspects to allow us to gather evidence.

Therefore, the problem possesses a highly strategic significance. The figure below depicts a three-way connection between the client and analyst’s domain:

Figure 3: Three-way connection between the client and analyst domains.
Source: T. Bacastow, D. Bellafiore, D. Bridges, S. Harter, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010.
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The client and the analyst connect at three levels; One: constraints of product desired vs. data available; Two: The knowledge and skill of each, and Three: production satisfaction.

Before beginning, ask the following questions:

  • Who is the key person for whom the analysis is being completed?
  • Do I understand the question? (If necessary, clarify this before proceeding.)
  • What is the most important message to give this client?
  • How is the client expected to use this information?
  • How much time does the client have?
  • What format would convey the information most effectively?
  • What is the client’s level of tolerance for technical geospatial specific language? How much detail and what geospatial accuracy does the client expect?
  • Would the client expect the analyst to reach out to other experts within or outside the Intelligence Community?
  • To whom, or to what source, might the client turn for alternative views on this topic? What data or analysis might others provide that could influence how the client reacts to what is being prepared in this paper?