A good geographer is able to handle data in a variety of situations and a variety of ways. Geographical data handling includes the collection, interpretation, analysis, presentation, application and evaluation of both primary and secondary data. That sounds like a lot of complicated stuff to do, but if you take it step by step, it becomes a lot easier.
Primary data is original data that you collect for yourself during fieldwork, it is likely that no-one else has collected the exact same data before. Secondary data is data that has already been collected by someone else, usually for a different reason, and is gathered from GIS material and other digital sources, graphs, maps, charts, diagrams etc. Data can take many different forms - numerical, statistical, the results of questions you have asked and so on.
The projects that you carry out as part of your GCSE will involve several types of data, but the secret to a successful project is to plan how you will collect and use it before you start.
When planning your geography investigation, if you begin with a question, it can help you to stay focussed on what data needs to be collected and how you will collect it. The question should be very specific and the outcome needs to be measurable. So investigating something like 'What do people think about the proposed nuclear power station' would not be as straightforward or successful as something like 'what percentage of local people are in favour of the building of a nuclear power station near their homes' because you can ask simple questions with yes/no answers that can be used to calculate percentages. A good question immediately directs your thoughts towards what data needs to be collected and how it could be analysed.
Once you have gathered your data, it then needs to be processed. This involves organising your data and spotting patterns in it, working out the best way to present your data and drawing your conclusions. Data can be either discrete or continuous. Discrete data can only have certain values within the range of your study, the simplest example would be yes/no answers to questions or numbers of windows in buildings. Continuous data can have any value in the range of your study, for example distance, temperature or time measurements.
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