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Environmental Studies

Situated Research

You will learn a special approach to interdisciplinary environmental scholarship in the ENVS Program. We call it situated research. Below are important resources to help you understand and master situated research.

  • Studying Places: Situated research is grounded in the concept of place—not place as in a location, nor exactly place as you may have heard about it before (e.g., in “place-based education”). Think of place as a gathering of processes and perspectives across space and time—a way for us to “get real” as we situate environmental issues in hybrid—and intriguingly messy—geographical contexts. And studying places is fun!: many of our ENVS majors, for instance, participate in overseas programs to study environmental issues in a globally diverse range of places.    
  • Situated Research: Here’s how to “get situated,” focusing on a special approach we call the hourglass. This approach to research starts with a broad environmental issue (top of the hourglass) and poses one or more general framing questions, then zooms in to a particular place or situated context (middle of the hourglass) and poses a focus question to guide your research, from which you’ll zoom out again (bottom of the hourglass) to consider implications, followup research, etc. for your broad issue.
  • Data, Methods, Theories, Frameworks: The situated approach calls for both empirical and conceptual sophistication. Data (information) and methods (ways to obtain information) are key to good empirical research; but data and methods are guided by broader theories (explanatory hypotheses), which themselves are guided by even broader frameworks (approaches to knowledge and reality).
  • Thesis Statements: When you communicate the results of situated research, you often present the gist of your argument as a thesis statement, which suggests an answer to your focus question in a manner that also sheds light on your framing question. As such, your thesis statement often touches on descriptive/explanatory as well as evaluative/instrumental dimensions of your chosen environmental issue (see here for information on those four dimensions).