Conducting Research Mapping and scaling

Research Mapping is a valuable technique for visually displaying relationships and resources.

In a water supply project, for example, mapping is invaluable. It can be used to present the placement of wells, distance of the homes from the wells, other water systems, etc. It gives researchers a good overview of the physical situation and may help to highlight relationships hitherto unrecognized.

Mapping a community is also very useful and often indispensable as a pre-stage to sampling.

Scaling is a technique that allows researchers through their respondents to categorise certain variables that they would not be able to rank themselves.

For example, they may ask their informant(s) to bring certain types of herbal medicine and ask them to arrange these into piles according to their usefulness. The informants would then be asked to explain the logic of their ranking.


Mapping and scaling may be used as participatory techniques in rapid appraisals or situation analyses. In a separate volume on participatory action research, more such techniques will be presented. (Also see the literature list at end of this module.)

Rapid appraisal techniques and participatory research are approaches often used in health systems research.

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