Midterm Review Guide

Date of Midterm: Oct. 9

Time/Place: Regularly scheduled class time and location (although the exam will be designed to be completed in 60-75 minutes, you will be allowed use of the entire class period)

Format: 40 items (roughly 20 multiple choice or T/F; 15 fill-in-the-blank; 5 short-answer essay)

Study Tips:

  • Review all class lectures (posted on the Class Notes page).
  • Review the concepts below and organize them into categories something like the following: definite grasp (i.e., confident in your ability to explain the concept in your own words and illustrate it with an example); familiar but unsure (i.e., might be able to describe concept but not sure how to illustrate or apply it); unfamiliar (i.e., you don’t recall ever reading or discussing the concept or you have a vague recollection but have no idea how to begin describing it). Note that some of the concepts, like “scale,” have related concepts (e.g., analysis scale) that you should know even though they may not be listed.
  • Starting with the first group, quickly review definitions to solidify your grasp. With the second group, you may need to re-read sections of the text in order to see how the concept is illustrated with research examples. If these are concepts whose definitions you feel like you grasp, spend more time looking up examples of how the concept is illustrated through actual research. The third group will require the most attention. If the concepts are difficult to grasp given the resources at your immediate disposal (i.e., texts and lectures), you might need to use one of the many excellent research methods websites to read additional definitions and get additional examples.
  • For those that are relevant to the concepts in the list below, try to answer the “Review Questions” at the end of each chapter in An Introduction to Scientific Research Methods in Geography & Environmental Studies.
  • Review the quizzes (Quizzes are posted on the Class Notes page)
  • Having completed the above steps, spend some time trying to make connections between and across concepts. They are all part of the research process in one way or another, so they all have relationships to one another. Being able to communicate about these relationships conveys a higher level of understanding. Start with the obvious ones, like the relationship between reliability and validity. Other concepts have more complicated relationships, like scale and levels of measurement.
  • Concepts that are in your texts but do not appear in the list below WILL NOT appear on the exam. However, there may be concepts from the lectures that do not appear in the list below that WILL be on the exam.

Concepts for Review

four goals of science

deductive approach

inductive approach



accuracy and precision



variable (e.g., dichotomous, discrete, etc.)


levels of measurement

operational definition


adaptation for use

byproduct of use



nonreactive measures

physical trace




bottom-up vs. top-down approach to generating code categories

content analysis

event sampling

time sampling

mutually exclusive and exhaustive (for coding categories or response options on close-ended survey questions)

participant observation

explicit reports (i.e., surveys or self-reported data)

open-ended vs. closed-ended items

branching format (also known as “contingency questions”)

contingent valuation vs. hedonic valuation

standardized vs. nonstandardized items (also known as structured vs. unstructured questionnaire)

order effect

random assignment


between-case design vs. within-case design (also known as between subjects vs. within subjects)

case study

cohort study

panel study

cross-sectional study

debriefing (of research subjects)


lab vs. “natural” or field experiments


Table 8.1 in Montello and Sutton (rather than get confused by this table, instead focus on understanding how a researcher can alter the within- and between-group comparisons in order to deal with the problems of validity)

spurious causality

Integrative Science

Spatial Analysis

Biocomplexity (three dimensions)

Environmental Decision Making (as an area of research)

Institutional Analysis

Individual Behavior and Environmental Decisions

Grant writing-related concepts:



project sustainability

letter of inquiry

proposal narrative

budget narrative

Sample short-answer essay questions

  • Describe how GIS or remote sensing methods could be used in both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies.
  • Suppose a researcher wants to understand the relationship between land cover change and the socioeconomic structure of cities over time. What methods would you recommend?
  • What is meant by “cross-scale interactions” (use one of the following terms in your answer: nonlinear, non equilibrium, historical contingency)?

The following questions are broader and more conceptual and therefore will not appear as short-answer exam questions. But it would nevertheless be useful to have a general sense of the challenges of bringing together researchers from different traditions/disciplines, and the importance of doing so if are to address the complexity of socio-environmental challenges.

  • Choose two different disciplines involved with environmental studies (e.g., geography, anthropology, ecology, political science, etc.) and illustrate the challenge of interdisciplinary research by showing how they use different concepts for the same phenomenon or the same concept with different definitions.
  • One critique of the natural sciences is that their perspectives and methods do not typically account for human social systems and their components (e.g., culture, institutions, individual behavior, etc.). Explain how the concept of “coupled human-natural systems” addresses this critique.



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