“Fundamentally, we all make use of maps and compass directions in our everyday lives – consciously or unconsciously. When you sit down to plan a trip – whether by automobile, rail, ship, air, or on foot – you get out maps r charts and try to figure out the shortest way, or the best way, or the route that will take you past the greatest number of interesting places. Then, on the trip, you consult your maps repeatedly to check where you are and where you are to go.” (Bjorn Kjellstrom, Be Expert with Map & Compass: The Orienteering Handbook)
Last weekend during an intense hike in the wilderness I was reminded of just how important maps are to outdoor excursions and how much I miss them when they are not there…I headed out to do the Breakneck Ridge hike in the Hudson Valley and, while I had enough water and snacks for the trek, I’d failed to equip myself with a map. While I remained hydrated and fed throughout the journey, I lacked a full sense of situational awareness- something that as an analyst I found pretty tough. While it was an awesome hike, I learned my lesson for next time: orient first and take a map!
This lesson also applies itself to the work I do as a researcher as orientation to the subject of inquiry and to my client are important steps in my process before I begin. Mapping out the specifics of my process are also critical to my success.
Mapping a research process is similar to the review of a trail map before a hike. One must consider such variables as time, tools, supplies, sources of information and documentation methods. A group of hikers would decide on a route, check the weather and supplies.
I liken the documentation process to taking photographs along a hike. At the end of the journey (and even sometimes during) you can look over where you have been so far, recall funny stories and have proof that you did indeed hike. Or in the case of a client- you will be able to go over the steps of your process and produce the necessary documentation to go along with your final product.
Below you’ll find photographic documentation of my hike and a story map I made in prep for a class I taught and a blank copy of a mind map I’ve used to collect my thoughts. Enjoy!
Thanks for reading!