Giving Directions
Zhao Xiang and Soonthorn Ativanichayaphong


Probably you had such experience of going to the places where you do not familiar with but you want to know how to get to restaurant or hotel. On the other hand, you may be asked to give a direction around your place. In this project, our group tried to collect a data and study how American people give a direction to the other.

Generally speaking, individual is supposed to give direction in the way of his own. For example, the mistake can be reduced to avoid the name of street that you are not really sure. Sometimes, if there are more than one way to get to the destination, you should pick the one that is the least complex (least number of turns) to describe even though you do not usually go by that way.

In this paper, we try to find how people give directions differently in real life, especially if there are any differences between genders.

Method,Participants and Site

We made a survey by directly asking people to give us a direction including their opinion about it. Mostly, our survey targets were students about 20 (randomly in gender) near library west, Anderson Hall, science library and other places on the campus of the University of Florida. Our questions were very simple. Firstly, we told them that we were doing a project to study how people giving a direction to other people. Then, we asked them to talk to us as if we were visitors here and asked them to give us a direction on the campus. Finally, we asked them the opinion about the best way to give the direction.

The reason why we chose this method are
1. Students are easy to find on campus, and willing to answer the questions.
2. Choosing the well-known place where everybody familiars with made the survey clear and definite.
3. Sometimes, people know what factors can make a good giving direction, but they do not do it for some reasons. Therefore, asking their opinion directly may be a good idea.
4. Since we want to look at the difference between genders, we limit the environment such as asking them the certain questions in the certain places.


During the survey, we found that people have some different styles to give a direction probably depending on their backgrounds. Some people felt comfortable to use north-south rather than left-right direction even though it is considered really bad if the person who asks for direction does not know which is north or south by the others. Most people used obvious landmarks in their explanations, and some used the name of buildings and streets as many as they can remember.

Here are some examples of long and short direction.

Long example – contains enough, detail and visualized.

Just go straight down here (use finger point) until you hit that building right in front of you called library west. Then you turn left, and then you go diagonally through a plaza, green area. Keep going straight. Go across a street, and come to building called Talinton has a huge stone statue. Then Keep going straight, and you want to go through two buildings called CISE and Science library. You will see a huge yellow structure like big french fry. You walk through those, and keep straight down to sidewalk. Keep going, keep going. Then you will pass about two building in the open area. Then you will see Reitz Union.

Short example – lack of detail, do not refer to anything.

Just go to this direction (finger point). Keep going, keep going. Then, Reitz Union sits on the left-hand side.

On the whole, we have really found some common points in this particular topic. The following are the key factors we gathered in the survey of giving the direction, supported by selected data.

Common Steps

1. Starting point

For the fist step of showing direction, 90 percent of people gave the starting point first. It is natural way and is pretty reasonable in logic. You can follow what they described step by step. This also demonstrates that they considered and described the things clearly. They used such sentences at the beginning as,

We are here at Museum Road, you...
Take this road here and straight-ahead, about 100 yards.
Follow the side road from here.
If you go ahead from this way, you will go to the left.
You walk up the street right here.
Sure, if you go up this street...
Go up this corner here.

2. Middle point.

People liked to give some middle point on the rout as a reference and
pause to be continued, like

Until you see a four-way stop sign…
And take on that road, it's called Museum Road...
And then, from the Reitz Union to the Museum Road.
When you go to the first traffic light
Go down the road to the button of hill, and when you get the button of hill, you can make a left.
Pass the museum...
You can pass the Hub...
And you take right at museum.

3. Change the direction, they almost used turning left (right).

Of course, in most situations, you have to change your direction in the rout. People always have such experience that it is most likely to make mistake when you change the direction in the strange place. So, it is very important to describe changing the direction. Above 90 percent people in the survey used the words of left and right for it. For examples,

Go out of that road and make left, then make right.
Directly down and turn left.
And when you get to the light, turn left.
You take the left at the intersection.
You go down this road and you take a right on the first intersection.
OK, go to that lane, and make a left..., make another left, and at next
light turn right.
At the end of this road, two blocks, turn right.

4. Land mark

Almost everyone mentioned the land marks during the process of giving direction as the references and as the description of the destination. Most of them thought the land mark is the most important thing, at lest said it was very important. We will discuss it more detail in the following.

5. Destination (ending point)

At last, they would tell you when will get your destination, which was the propose of giving the direction. They used these sentences as conclusions,

The Shand will on your left side.
The Shand will be right from you.
On your left side, you will see a big building.
You will be right there.

The most important thing for giving the direction

In the survey, we emphasized the question of 'Could you tell me what you think the most important thing in giving direction? We are very happy that they gave us almost the same answers- Land Marks. This is the most common thing in the survey of asking for the direction. Even though they did not mention the land mark, you pointed out the special building, the same meaning as land mark. To the question of 'Do you think the land mark is the most import thing?' They said, 'Yes, I think so.'  One gentleman replied this question immediately and firmly, 'Most important thing? Land marks.' We recorded lot of such answer as:

I think the most important thing is to use the land mark, the special architecture design, means something distinguishable.

When I ask for direction? I like land marks, like specific places, like building, restaurant, like something are publics.

And..., probably like land mark, ..., different building or statue, you know, different thing you see on the way.

And..., land marks, land marks like what is near, like building that's near, maybe, and street numbers.

Most important thing? For me, the land mark. The name of the streets are OK, if they are visual, but the land marks are more simple to get.

Well, I think the land marks, yes.

About North or South

Most people did not agree to the this way, they said:

(This kind of) Direction can be a kind of confusing, but they are also useful.

I think half of people here don't know which is north.

That's good but not everybody know them, geographical direction, you might not understand, that might be look confusing.

I don't like those, I don't know south, east, west.

It is really confusing.

It's a little hard that way.

A lot of times if you are lost, you have no idea about that.

You can do that, but not everybody knows what is north and south, unless you have street signs like north or west.

Yes, it's helpful. You have really good idea of  the direction sense.

Analysis and Implications

According to our survey information, there are really some common points in the expression of giving the direction by different people. We did not find the obvious difference in the ways by man and woman as some people expect. If difference, there is a little. Generally speaking, man spook more briefly to get to the point directly, and woman explained in more detail, tried to the visual explanation. For example, you are going to see.... To our astonish, unlike what we expected, to all the men we interviewed, none of them thought the way like giving the direction by north, south, etc. is the best. On the contrary, it is interesting that one of young ladies used this method in whole process of giving the direction and insisted it is the best way.

The table below tries to tell you some differences of giving direction between genders. However, you should realize that this kind of information is not consistent. We are talking what average male or female tends to do.

- Use the name of the road, and building. 
- Generally, briefly, get to the point. 
- Mostly, use landmark. 
-Use landmark, if it is obvious. 
-Use the name of the building, but sometimes don't remember the name of the road. 
-Generally, tries to use visual explain (for example, you are going to see...)

In conclusion, people generally do not have many differences in giving direction. Also, most people tended to have the same opinions about what are the important factors for giving direction effectively. Those factors are using significant landmark, the name of the place, using left-right turn, making a clear starting/ending point, and being good organized.