Processing research

Geographers need to use a range of information gathered to ensure a comprehensive study. The accurate use of data is important as it allows for sensible conclusions to be reached.

When processing primary data, you must consider which type of diagrams, maps, tables or graphs will allow you to display the information that you have gathered.

If you have maps, photographs or field-sketches, remember to identify locations. If you have obtained secondary data, processing this information using a simple mind map with key words is often helpful.

Remember to give each diagram a number to help you when you write up your report e.g. Figure 1: Map of area X or Diagram 2 – Bar graph showing volume of vehicles.

Processing data also involves manipulating it to make it more useful. There are many ways to process data, using:

  • ratios to show a relationship between two sets of data and are shown as two numbers with a colon symbol in-between, eg 2:1. Ratios would work well to illustrate, such as the number of people per doctor
  • proportions which are similar to ratio, but are written slightly differently, e.g. 1 in 10. Proportions would be useful to illustrate, eg the number of tourists within an area
  • averages, or measures of central tendency, are commonly taken in three different ways:
    • mean – add the total of all values that have been collected and then divide by the number of values
    • median – write out all of the numbers that have been collected in numerical order and find the middle number
    • mode – the most commonly appearing value within the data
  • percentages which can either show proportions or change over time. Percentages would be useful to illustrate, e.g. land use within an area

It is important to think about how to justify why the data has been processed in a particular way.

Once you have processed your data, you must consider how you are going to use it to communicate your findings and write-up your geographical study. Remember you will need to structure your report in an organised way that flows. This will allow other people to read and understand your work.