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4. Fieldwork Methods

There a 5 different types of methods that
you can use/combine when doing a fieldwork:


This method requires direct observation of the processes at work. For example, you can design a questionnaire to find out why people shop where they do. This is a very common method used for fieldwork.


This method requires you to measure or map two or more variables and attempt explanations on the basis of correlations observed. This method is simple and a useful first stage but correlations often leave questions unanswered about the processes. It is also sometimes difficult to conclude as to why things are correlated as many factors can enter into play.


This method -also called the ergodic method- is another way to study change over time: it involves finding places that are at different stages of development and, by comparing them, learn about the process of change they may go through. For example, you can study gentrification by comparing three neighborhoods that are similar but at different stages of the process. However, you must beware of assuming that because a particular sequence occurs in one place it will necessarily occur elsewhere.


In the real world, change can be too slow to observe. An effective way of studying change, therefore, can be to make scaled-down version of reality (e.g. use a fridge and oven to simulate heating/cooling of rocks in nature). You can therefore obtains results more quickly. This is mostly used for physical geography (e.g. climate, etc)


If you are studying change over time, it is usually necessary to reconstruct the past, by using old maps for example. This type of method is more difficult, since you need to appropriate secondary data. Keep in mind that your fieldwork must be based primarily on data YOU have collected and/or observed.