Making Space for Failure in Geographic Research

Elly Harrowell, Thom Davies, Tom Disney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Citations (Scopus)
16 Downloads (Pure)


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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)230-238
Number of pages9
JournalThe Professional Geographer
Issue number2
Early online date10 Aug 2017
Publication statusPublished - 3 Apr 2018


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