Key Methods in Geography

February 24, 2011

Editors: Nicholas Clifford, Shaun French and Gill Valentine

Edition: Second

Publisher: SAGE

Pages: 568

Price: £85.00 and £28.99

ISBN 9781412935081 and 5098

The second edition of Key Methods in Geography, part of what is now a well-established series, offers a broadly conceived overview of the planning, execution and presentation of geographical research. Its range is far broader than the majority of methods texts, being concerned with both human and physical geography.

The book also tackles all-too-often neglected contexts of research such as health and safety and ethics. In doing so, it makes clear that these should be seen as more than form-filling hurdles to be negotiated before hitting the field. In addition, the volume covers areas - such as conducting a literature search, writing essays, reports and dissertations and understanding assessment - that technically lie beyond the remit suggested in the title, but that undoubtedly enhance its impact.

Given the seriousness with which Key Methods in Geography approaches all aspects of research, it will continue to find wide favour among undergraduate geographers.

The book consists of 32 chapters authored by an impressive range of contributors. It is divided into four sections that move through the research process from "Getting started in geographical research" to "Generating and working with data in human geography", "Generating and working with data in physical geography" and finally "Representing and interpreting geographical data". Each chapter offers a relatively short (typically 12-15 page) discussion written in an authoritative but accessible style. One cannot argue with the range of contents and there are no obvious omissions.

The influence of the editors is apparent in the consistency of tone, style and pitch among the book's 35 contributors. All of the authors are experienced in the area they discuss and offer a general overview rather than one overly focused on their own research. Clearly the editors recognise their audience well and have briefed the contributors accordingly.

The volume certainly does not equip students with all they will need to undertake geographical research. Given Key Methods' range, this would be impossible. What it does do successfully though is to outline to students, in ways that they will find engaging, the options that are available to them as budding researchers.

If it does not get them to their destination, it certainly sets them out well on the long road of geographical research.

Who is it for? All geography undergraduates would find this useful, especially those approaching their dissertation.

Presentation: Includes a number of useful features such as illustrations, boxed examples, exercises, synopses, summaries and annotated lists of further reading. The distribution of boxed features is a little uneven and the format of further reading varies somewhat. But these are minor quibbles and the shortcomings do not significantly undercut the utility of these features.

Would you recommend it? Yes. It is an excellent guide to geographical research with an unmatched range of contents.

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