The Learner's Guide to Geospatial Analysis

SATs and Geospatial Operations


It is often difficult for an analyst to determine the next step in an analytic process or to visualize how various techniques and tools fit together. Using the below as a list of the common GIS operations, the analyst might use:

  • data entry;
  • data conversion;
  • data validation;
  • spatial data management;
  • attribute data management;
  • data visualization;
  • data processing/analysis and
  • output of maps and reports.

The Structured Geospatial Analytic Method (SGAM) provides the means to relate the analytical step to the Structured Analytic Technique (SAT) and then to the appropriate geospatial operation. The following table summarizes this mapping:

Structured Geospatial Analytical Method to SAT to GIS Operation Mappings

Structured Geospatial Analytic Method Step

Structured Analytic Technique GIS Operation
Step 1: Question
  • Brainstorming
Step 2: Grounding
  • Brainstorming
  • Key Assumption Check
  • Quality of Information Check
  • Red Team
  • Data entry
  • Data conversion
  • Data validation
  • Spatial data management
  • Attribute data management
  • Data visualization
Step 3: Hypothesis Development
  • Brainstorming
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH)
  • Data visualization 
Step 4: Evidence Development
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH)
  • Data visualization
  • Data processing/analysis
Step 5: Fusion
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH)
  • Output of maps and reports 
Step 6: Conclusions
  • Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH)
  • Devil’s Advocacy
  • Output of maps and reports

The Intelligence Community began to use structured techniques because of analytic failures related to cognitive limitations and pitfalls or biases. The use of SATs does not guarantee getting intelligence analysis right, because there are so many uncertainties. SATs help to reduce the frequency and severity of error. These include SATs that partially overcome cognitive limitations, address analytic pitfalls, and confront the problems associated with mindsets. SATs help the mind think more rigorously about an analytic problem. Specifically, they ensure that assumptions, preconceptions, and mindsets are not taken for granted but are explicitly examined and tested. The use of SATs also helps to review the analysis and identify the cause of any error.