ArcGIS

Call for Stories of GIS in Qualitative Social Science Research

Are you using GIS to answer qualitative social science questions? If so, we’d love to hear about your work!

GIS is powerful for understanding our changing world as it is represented by coordinate reference systems. We can map geographically referenced data to explore important questions, often using quantitative methods to identify spatial patterns of “when something occurs,” “how many exist,” and “what is related.” Yet, GIS is also powerful for exploring qualitative social science questions that do not always map cleanly to a latitude/longitude or UTM grid.

We can use GIS to integrate the collection and analysis of geographic data with that of rich contextual, descriptive, interpretive qualitative data to investigate spatial patterns of “why” and “how” something occurs, exists, or relates. GIS can help situate social science research in the lived experiences of people whose perspectives inform us of why and how something is the way it is.

Lived experiences do not always fit exactly on a map grid. Whether you are working with youth to map and describe areas where they experience nature (see image below), or asking citizens to contribute their local knowledge about areas of community changes and perceptions, there is value in using GIS to capture these perspectives that ground our understanding of the world. While great potential exists, GIS is still relatively untapped in qualitative social science research.

This example is from a study exploring where and how youth experience nature in their lives. In the text highlighted in red, this study participant described how their experience of "Arapaho Glacier, Colorado" did not exactly fit on the map.
This example is from a study exploring where and how youth experience nature in their lives. In the text highlighted in red, this study participant described how their experience of "Arapaho Glacier, Colorado" did not exactly fit on the map.

Share your story

By promoting new case examples of GIS in qualitative social science research, we hope to inspire new ways of understanding and to build on existing resources that support this work. We want to know how GIS approaches—using Esri and non-Esri products, current and discontinued—are already being used to explore wide-ranging social science questions, especially those that ask “why” and “how.”

We know some of you are already using GIS for qualitative social science research, or you have in the past. No matter when it happened, we’d love to hear your story! Are you…

Please share your work with us! Submit to our Social Science Success Story Submission Portal. Doing so presents the opportunity to promote your work among the GIS community, disseminate your work to non-academic audiences, and inspire others to adopt GIS approaches in their own social science work. Depending on the volume of submissions, we will request some submissions to be expanded in a blog post and featured in our social science resources and Esri Blog.

Questions / need help? Email us at socialscience@esri.com

About the authors

Victoria is an Industry Marketing Manager for Corporate Science Communications supporting Chief Scientist of Esri, Dr. Dawn Wright. She has a background in Earth and Environmental Science from Vanderbilt University. When she isn't marketing, she's passionate about science communications, sustainable fashion, photography, and wildlife.

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(she/her/hers) Diana loves working with data. She has over a decade of experience as a practitioner of demography, sociology, economics, policy analysis, and GIS. Diana holds a BA in quantitative economics and an MA in applied demography. She is a senior product engineer on ArcGIS Living Atlas of the World's Policy Maps team. Diana enjoys strong coffee and clean datasets, usually simultaneously.

Corey Martz

Corey is an intern with the Esri Denver State and Local Government Team and PhD candidate at the University of Denver. He loves exploring different GIS approaches in government and education. He gets especially excited about qualitative GIS research approaches to mapping experiences of nature with youth. Geographic/qualitative data are close to Corey’s heart, as are activities in the mountains and foods that pair with (a lot of) ketchup.

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