Take Home Messages

Why should we bother thinking about theory and philosophy when designing a dissertation?

  • Whether we realise it or not, we all carry with us particular ways of knowing the world. These ways of knowing the world – if we reflect upon them – can help us to identify the kinds of questions we might want to ask in our dissertation, and therefore the sort of project we want to complete. Do we want to make statistical claims have numerical certainty, or do we want to understand the messy, multiple nature of the social world?
  • Knowing how our work is inspired by theory can help in harnessing the right tools for doing research and provide ideas for making sense of data. As such, it is helpful to recognise if our work is contextualised within a specific theoretical approach (Marxism, feminism, post-positivism, post-structuralism and so on).
  • We should also – right at the start – ensure our work is geographical and attends to the core concerns of geographers! These concerns include an attention to space and place, time and temporality, and movement and mobility. Dissertations that aren’t geographical run the risk of stumbling at the first hurdle!