SGP Stage 1: Choosing a topic and plan of investigation
The first thing you need to do is decide on a topic. Begin by brainstorming as many different ideas as you can. The mind map below already has a few ideas, but you should try to come up with as many ideas as you can.
Stage 1 should be set out with the following sub-headings:
- Topic Theme - a general topic
- Key Questions - this should describe the main aim of the project
- 10 Specific Aims/ Questions - this will outline the specific aims of the project
- Plan of investigation
This title should give a general idea about what your project is about. Some examples are: multiculturalism in Cabramatta, the impacts of new developments in Ryde, the factors affecting vegetation patterns in Epping, landuase patterns surrounding Macquarie University, or urban runoff patterns affecting LAne Cove National Park. Remember that your topic can include both the human side of geography and the physical side.
The key question should give an idea of what the project will be about in general. For example: "What is the state of the environment at the Cumberland Woodlands?", or, "What has been the impact of multiculturalism on the suburb of Auburn?".
This section should explain what you are setting out to achieve. You should have at least 10 aims. Some examples are: to identify different cultures represented in Cabramatta; to identify the most common crimes committed in Redfern; to identify major sources of urban runoff in Cronulla; to identify the most prevalent vegetation type in Epping; to examine the attempts made by local councils to manage new developments in Homebush Bay.
Key words for writing aims: investigate, discover, identify, explain, consider, analyse.
Plan of investigation:
This section is an outline of sources (both primary and secondary) and the expected time frame. You should also include as much information as possible about contacts, interview questions, fieldwork sites, etc. This section should also have interview questions, survey questions, fieldwork maps attached. An example of how it could be set out is below:
Issues to consider:
There are several issues you need to think about before you settle on a topic.
- Is the topic you have chosen actually geographic?
- Are there any laws or ethical issues that will stop you from being able to conduct your research?
- Is the issue safe? For example if your topic involved interviewing criminals, this would not be considered a wise topic.
- Will you have enough time to complete the topic? If your topic involves looking at how an issue will impact on a place over the next 3 years it will not be suitable. While you will be able to make predictions, you may not be able to study the impacts in detail or complete a thorough analysis.
- Your topic should not be so general that the answer to the questions or aims are too obvious, but at the same time it should not be so specific that it is nearly impossible to find information.
Deputy Principal at a Sydney high school. Coordinating author of the new Geoactive book series.