Political Geography

The course is “POLITICAL GEOGRAPHY” didn’t find the course specification on the drop down menu.


Research Question: Identify a research question within the field of political geography. Your research question must be focused, coherent, and clear. Moreover, it must be answerable within the scope of a course paper. It is not appropriate to select a research question that can be answered using only the course readings. You need to use the concepts introduced in class expansively, by which I mean, apply the concepts to new questions. To do this, you should identify a research question that is capable of using the analytic tools of political geography to address one of the substantive themes of the course (e.g. state, territory, property, democracy, environment) in relation to a particular issue that we have not explicitly addressed in the course.

Moreover, your research question should be answerable through existing sources (court documents, media reportage, government reports). It should not require you to conduct interviews or ethnographic research. I want you to be able to do this research without talking to anyone (or getting research ethics approval).

Evaluating the research question, we will look for research questions to clearly connect one of the themes of the class and a particular issue. Furthermore, a good research question must clearly apply the analytic tools of political geography to connect the course themes and particular issue of interest.

It must be focused, narrow enough to be effectively answered in the context of a course paper. You need to bracket your question (for example, by time or place). For instance, using one legal decision or local controversy to consider a broader theme from the course.

Your research question should be coherent, in the sense that it should have one controlling idea or hypothesis. You should avoid posing fragmented research questions, in which two or more core ideas are pulling the research in different directions. While your paper can have subarguments, you need to ensure that the component subarguments of your paper are all subordinated to a governing question.

Your research question must be clear. This means that you need to be precise in your language. You want to know exactly what you are asking, exactly what you mean with your words, and exactly what it would mean to answer the research questions.

The proposal should answer five questions:
What is your project about?
What question do you aim to answer?
Why is it worth doing?
How are you engaging geographic concepts and theory?
How will you apply these concepts empirically?

There should be five sections to your proposal: 1) introduction, 2) question and rationale, 3) literature review, 4) methods, 5) references.

First, the introduction should establish your topic. You should describe your research area, and clearly articulate its linkages to political geography. You should also establish what political geography concept you are drawing upon.

Second, the research question should be elaborated and justified. You should be clear about what you are asking, and your question should be concretely answerable within the context of the course paper. Use the criteria I established for the question; it should be focused, coherent, clear. To make it clear, you may need to clarify what you mean by certain terms. If you intend to answer your research question through answering a number of connected sub -questions, you need to clarify what those sub-questions are and how they connect. Moreover, you need to provide a rationale for your question: why is it a question worth asking? What is the significance of the issue you want to research? Does it extend scholarship? Or address a pertinent policy or justice issue? How is the issue you are addressing one of political geography, and how do the conceptual tools of political geography help you understand the issue? You should clearly specify what course concept you use (e.g. sovereignty, territoriality, property, participatory democracy, etc …).

Third, a brief literature review should explain how your research engages the published scholarly literature. This should draw on your annotated bibliography, as well as any additional reading you have undertaken. I do not want you to summarize everything that you have read. The point is not to simply repeat the annotated bibliography in paragraph form. Rather the literature review should be oriented towards further elucidating your question in conversation with the established scholarly literature, and specifically the geographic literature. I want you to think geographically and show engagement with the cannon of geographic thought. You want to demonstrate a grasp of the relevant literature for your research question, show its importance to your proposed research, as well as how your research can help contribute to the literature. (Thus, providing further evidence for the utility of a concept, or demonstrating how one conceptualization is preferable to another to understand your case, can further lend credence to the rationale for your research).

Fourth, the methods section should describes how you intend to conduct your research. What sources will you draw upon? What empirical texts will you examine? UN reports? Government inquiries? Court decisions? Planning documents? Be precise about what exactly you will look at and how you will find it. Moreover, explain how these sources will help you answer your research question? What are you going to be examining empirical texts for? What are you looking for in reading them? How will you know whether you have answered your question. The methods section should flow from the earlier sections and closely align with your research question. It should convince the reader of your capacity to answer your research question. Here you can suggest what you expect to find, and how you might interpret those results (your working hypothesis). Your methods section should be clear enough that someone else could effectively duplicate your study having read it.


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