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After watching this video, you will be able to explain what the scientific method is, how and why it is used in geography, and give some examples. A short quiz will follow.

What is the Scientific Method?

The scientific method is a set of techniques for investigating things in the world and either acquiring new knowledge or improving upon previous knowledge. In the scientific method, a scientist will notice a question to be resolved, come up with a hypothesis, make observations and measurements to test that hypothesis, and then either make conclusions or come up with a new hypothesis and go back to the data collection stage.

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By following this systematic method, our knowledge and understanding can be more accurate and reliable.But it isn’t just scientists who seek to explain the world around us. Geographers do the same thing. In exploring our world, geographers will often come across a puzzle that is hard to explain or an observation that just doesn’t make sense on first glance.

Figuring out why things are the way they are is a big part of geography.So geographers can also benefit from using the scientific method in their investigations. Let’s go through a few examples of the scientific method in geography.

Geographic Examples

One day a geographer is driving through the Rocky Mountains when they discover that the west side of the mountains is much greener and fuller with vegetation than the east side. Naturally, they start to wonder: Why is that?After giving it some thought, they come up with a hypothesis: Perhaps there is more rainfall in the west. But a hypothesis is not a conclusion — this has to be proven using the scientific method.

So next the geographer works on a method for collecting data about the rainfall on each side of the mountains. They go out, measure the rainfall, and analyze the results to see if their hypothesis was correct. Or perhaps they use secondary sources to check their hypothesis — other people who have already collected the rainfall data they need. But wherever they get their data, they create graphs, charts or maps, and come up with a final conclusion — just like a scientist.

For another example, let’s say that a geographer is visiting several towns near a national park. They notice that one town is booked months in advance and super busy at this time of year. But the other town, while still somewhat busy, just doesn’t have the same appeal. In fact, the other town is smaller and less developed. A geographer might ask the question: Why?To answer that question, they again would need some data. Perhaps they could survey the visitors and see why they choose that town or what attractions they’re interested in. Perhaps they could look at the history of tourism advertisement for the area.

It could be that one town is closer to a particularly well-known or well-advertised attraction. Or maybe one town is more convenient for nearby cities. There could be many reasons, but without data, a geographer would have nothing but guesses.For this reason, the scientific method is a vital tool in geography.

Lesson Summary

The scientific method is a set of techniques for investigating things in the world and either acquiring new knowledge or improving upon previous knowledge. In the scientific method, a scientist will come up with a hypothesis, make observations and measurements to test that hypothesis, and then either make conclusions or come up with a new hypothesis.But geographers also seek to explain the world around us. They’ll often come across a puzzle that is hard to explain, or an observation that doesn’t make sense on first glance. Figuring out why things are the way they are is a big part of geography.

Without hard data to analyze, they would have nothing but a best guess on which to base their conclusions, and this wouldn’t be very reliable. So the scientific method is vital in geography.

Learning Outcomes

Once you are finished, you should be able to:

  • Explain what the scientific method is and what it is used for
  • Discuss how the scientific method can be useful for geographers

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