GEOG 885
Advanced Analytic Methods for the GEOINT Professional



The lesson addresses the two highlighted elements of the Structured Geospatial Analytic Method (SGAM):

 Two steps are highlighted: Step 3: Hypothesis and Development; Step 4: Evidence Development
Figure 1: Elements of the Structured Geospatial Analytic Method
Source:  T. Bacastow, D. Bellafiore, D. Bridges, S. Harter, The Pennsylvania State University, 2010.

This lesson begins with developing hypotheses and evidence which is the beginning of the sensemaking and Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) process. Developing good hypotheses requires both divergent thinking, to ensure that all hypotheses are considered, and convergent thinking to ensure that redundant and irrational hypotheses are eliminated. Evidence should include all factors, both spatial and non-spatial, that might have an impact on judgments about the hypotheses.

ACH is a general purpose intelligence analysis methodology developed by Richards Heuer while he was an analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). ACH draws on the scientific method, cognitive psychology, and decision analysis. ACH became widely available when the CIA published Heuer’s The Psychology of Intelligence Analysis. The ACH methodology can help the geospatial analyst overcome cognitive biases common to analysis in national security, law enforcement, and competitive intelligence. ACH forces analysts to disprove hypotheses rather than jump to conclusions and permit biases and mindsets to determine the outcome. ACH is a very logical step-by-step process that has been incorporated into our Structured Geospatial Analytical Method. A synopsis of the method as it can be applied to geospatial analysis in discussed in Lessons 4,5, and 7. A complete discussion of ACH is found in Chapter 8 of Heuer’s book.

Lesson Objectives

At the end of lessons 5, 6 & 7 you will be able to:

  • Understand Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH).
  • Apply ACH in the context of the Structured Geospatial Analytic Method.

The Course Roadmap is intended to help you understand where we are in the overall learning process and to place our dual case study and project focus into context.

Figure 2: Course Roadmap
Click for accessible description

The Course Roadmap highlights where students are within the course. For Lesson 5, there are two deliverables.  One is an individual discussion post regarding the ACH analysis of the DC Sniper, and Two:  A group thinking exercise on the Luna Case.

Lesson 5 is one week in length. (See the Calendar in Canvas for specific due dates.) To finish this lesson, you must complete the activities listed below. You may find it useful to print this page out first so that you can follow along with the directions.

Steps to Completing Lesson 05
Step Activity Access/Directions
1 Read the lesson Overview and Checklist. You are in the Lesson 05 online content now. Click on the "Next Page" link to continue.
2 There are three different styles of reading that are referred to in the lessons:
  • Scan: Do not deal with all of the content, but search through the material for a specific purpose or a specific word (or its synonym). Scanning is used for such purposes as finding the answer to a particular question.
  • Skim: To skim, read a page by reading the headings and first sentences of each paragraph or section.
  • Read: The purpose of this style is to understand the concepts and arguments that the text contains, and it should be preceded by the Skim reading style.
3 Participate in the Graded Discussion. Expand upon (add to or change) the example, DC Sniper: Analysis of Competing Hypothesis I (Lesson 5, Part 5).

To participate in the discussion, please go to the Lesson 5 Discussion Forum in Canvas. (That forum can be accessed at any time by going to the Canvas link on the menu bar and then selecting Lesson 5 Discussion Forum from the appropriate weekly module.)
4 Complete the Imaginative Thinking Techniques Exercise. Complete the Imaginative Thinking Techniques Exercise (Lesson 5, Part 6).  Post your results to your team's Canvas project dropbox.

NOTE: All of the team's work will be contained in a single document file uploaded to the team's dropbox in Canvas.
5 Read lesson Summary. You are in the Lesson 5 online content now.


If you have any questions now or at any point during this week, please feel free to post them to the GEOG 885 - General Discussion Forum. (That forum can be accessed at any time in Canvas by clicking on the Modules tab. The General Discussion forum is listed under the Orientation Section.)