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Making space for failure in geographic research

Harrowell, Elly; Davies, Thom; Disney, Tom

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Elly Harrowell

Tom Disney


The idea that field research is an inherently “messy” process has become widely accepted by geographers in recent years. There has thus far been little acknowledgment, however, of the role that failure plays in doing human geography. In this article we push back against this, arguing that failure should be recognized as a central component of what it means to do qualitative geographical field research. This article seeks to use failure proactively and provocatively as a powerful resource to improve research practice and outcomes, reconsidering and giving voice to it as everyday, productive, and necessary to our continual development as researchers and academics. This article argues that there is much value to be found in failure if it is critically examined and shared, and—crucially—if there is a supportive space in which to exchange our experiences of failing in the field.


Harrowell, E., Davies, T., & Disney, T. (2018). Making space for failure in geographic research. Professional Geographer, 70(2), 230-238.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date May 1, 2017
Online Publication Date Aug 10, 2017
Publication Date Apr 3, 2018
Deposit Date Oct 29, 2018
Publicly Available Date Oct 29, 2018
Journal The Professional Geographer
Print ISSN 0033-0124
Electronic ISSN 1467-9272
Publisher Routledge
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 70
Issue 2
Pages 230-238
Keywords ethnography, failure, field research, geography, qualitative methods
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Peer Review Statement: The publishing and review policy for this title is described in its Aims & Scope.; Aim & Scope:


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