GEOG 401 Capstone

Instructors: Paul Kaldjian, Ingolf Vogeler
Office: Phillips Hall 245
Phone: 836-2321/836-3244







Geography Capstones
According to the UWEC catalogue, GEOG 401, the capstone seminar, is designed to integrate theory and methods, quantitative and cartographic techniques, field work, and students' growing geographic awareness to serve as a ‘capstone experience’ for geography majors. Literature review, research design, data evaluation and synthesis, how to construct an informed position, and presentation skills are stressed.

Capstone Overview
This concluding capstone course provides geography majors the opportunity to place their studies and understanding confidently within the geographic tradition, and will do so by developing a professional presentation based on the results of each student's own research. To do so effectively means that much of the course is about reading and writing.

Students are required to work with their advisors, research mentors or teachers from other classes to identify the topic, data and information that they will turn into a final research poster or presentation. Ideally, students will not start a new research project during this class, but will take a project from another class, an independent study, a field seminar, a faculty/student research collaboration, an internship, even a homework assignment, and develop it into a full research project. Thus, the course is not about doing fieldwork, learning new techniques, or even gathering and analyzing data, per se. Rather, it is about research design and processes, interpreting analyzed data and communicating what we learn to others as trained geographers. It is about clearly understanding the geographic significance of our observations, situating our work within the discipline, its ideas and perspectives, and presenting our findings as works of geography. (Having said that, qualitative research methods will be introduced to complement quantitative and GIS techniques learned in GEOG 328, GEOG 335 and elsewhere).

Students unsure of what project they intend to develop and the data they intend to use must meet immediately with their advisors or another geography faculty member familiar with the that student's work, experiences and capabilities. Finally, the course is not, simply, for those pursuing an academic career. The skills and ways of thinking to be refined and practiced in this course is intended for all who intend to think of themselves as effective geographers.

Geographic Understanding
Since an important objectives of the course include learning the framework used by geographers to examine the world, it will include learning some tools of geographical analysis and understanding fundamental theories and concepts in geography.According to the National Geography Standards developed in 1994, a geographically informed person should have the five skills listed below.  In addition to learning the specific geography of Middle East and North Africa, working on that skills that a geographically informed person knows underlie the course homework assignments and class discussions and lectures.

A geographically informed person knows how to:

1. Ask geographic questions -- Questions revolve around asking why things are  where they are, how they got there and what is the significance of their being there?
2. Acquire geographic information: Geographic information is information about locations, the physical and human characteristics of those locations, and the geographic activities and conditions of the people who live in those places.
3. Organize geographic information: Once collected, geographic information should be organized and displayed in ways that help analysis and interpretation; these range from the visual and graphical (e.g., maps, graphs, diagrams, tables) to the written (e.g., essays, paragraphs, pertinent quotes, tables).
4. Analyze geographic information: involves seeking patterns, relationships and connections, noting such things as similarities, trends and differences over space and time
5. Answer geographic questions:  Successful geographic inquiry culminates in the development and communication of generalizations, inferences and conclusions based on the data gathered, organized and analyzed.