The geographic inquiry process: a way to problem solve

When solving problems with GIS, it's helpful to have a framework in which to work. The geographic inquiry process provides the necessary framework. This process consists of five steps, as described in the table below.




1. Ask a geographic question

Develop geographic questions that need to be answered such as, "What is the pattern to when and where crime is occurring?"

2. Acquire geographic data

Obtain the geographic data you need from a company database, the Internet, other sources, or create it yourself.

3. Explore geographic data

Create a map of your geographic area and symbolize data.

4. Analyze geographic information

Determine problem-solving approach and perform GIS analysis.

5. Act on geographic knowledge

Develop your message and intended audience and create visuals to communicate information.


If you take a close look at the structure of this course, you'll see that the modules follow the geographic inquiry process. Most exercises also follow this process. It's a common-sense approach to solving problems with GIS.


Steps in the geographic inquiry process


Depending on the type of problem you're trying to solve, the geographic inquiry process can be iterative. In some cases, the last step of the geographic inquiry process leads to more geographic questions and the whole process begins again.