Critical Reflection Mapping as a Hybrid Methodology for Examining Sociospatial Perceptions of New Research Sites

Timothy L. Hawthorne, Patricia Solís, Brittney Terry, Marie Price, Christopher L. Atchison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


We introduce critical reflection mapping as a novel and hybrid research methodology for examining the sociospatial perceptions of researchers in new research settings, particularly international ones. The methodology, theoretically situated within the critical geographic information systems literature, combines two existing research methods (qualitative sketch mapping and critical reflection) to elicit original ways in which researchers can critically reflect on an area new to them while spatially linking these qualitative place-based reflections to sketch maps. The methodology allows for synergistic data sets to inform each other and to be analyzed together rather than separately. Through critical reflection mapping, we demonstrate how multiple data sets and methods are combined so that critical reflection and word clouds add significant intellectual value by making another layer of textual information immediately accessible to qualitative sketch mapping data analysis. We present two case studies in Belize and Panama from our current community geography research agendas to demonstrate the viability as well as the caveats of this novel methodology for understanding and representing the immediate sociospatial perceptions of researchers. In the context of international research experiences discussed in this article, the methodology captures individual responses to features of the built environment including walkability and sustainability; documents the changing emotions a newly immersed researcher has in a largely unfamiliar geographic setting; and connects new experiences in a foreign research setting to an individual's everyday lived experiences, positionality, and multiple identities. It also makes these experiences more visible to fellow researchers in a large research team and thus lends itself as a potential forum for shared reflection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)22-47
Number of pages26
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Belize
  • Panama
  • community geography
  • critical GIS
  • critical reflection mapping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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