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Geographic Inquiry

When we look at events, places, and people on the Earth, we find that everything happens somewhere, and everything and everyone are located somewhere. Since these things have a "somewhere", (a spatial location), they are related to other things around them. Some are related by their proximity, others by their similarities or differences, and still others by their interactions with other things.

This dynamic arrangement of people, places, and events on the planet and their connections coax us into asking questions such as-- "where?," "why there?," "so what?" "what if...?" All of which are asked with an eye toward understanding connections, solving problems, and making inferences about the world.

To delve into this world, a thinking explorer is concerned with:

Asking geographic questions
Acquiring geographic information to answer those questions
Organizing and analyzing the information
Answering the questions

Some questions can be explored with text alone, but many others are more clearly understood by using maps, tables, images, and charts. Because a GIS can integrate all of these, it is a highly effective tool for use in geographic inquiry.

In working with GIS, a thinking geographic explorer needs to...

Think about a place or some event tied to a place
Ask a question about it
Decide what information, geography, and tools are needed
Make a geographic display
Notice the patterns, relationships, and trends
Answer the old question and ask a new one
Repeat the process

Throughout these steps, it's important to remember that the maps and other graphic displays created along the way are critical tools for exploring, not just a final product of a study. It is also important to notice that knowing how to operate the GIS software package is not necessarily the most critical thinking skill needed in this process