1 Research proposal
You will find it easy to establish the broad area you want to conduct your research in: youth unemployment in your area, or concerns that local members of an ethnic group have about using local health services, for example.
2 Purpose of research
Think about what outcome you expect from your research – will it identify a specific need that you plan to remedy? Or suggest changes to your project?
Or highlight gaps in local service provision that you want to campaign around? This is the research purpose.
Are you starting with an idea that you want to test – and find evidence to prove it? Or are you trying to find out what people think about an issue that is of interest to you?
3 Issues to be studied
Where does the need to do this research come from? Identify the issues you are trying to explore, using anecdotal statements made by members of your group. Brainstorming sessions may reveal that different people involved in the research group have different ideas about the actual issues, so this stage needs to involve as many people as possible.
4 Defining your research questions
The next step is to make your research both meaningful and manageable by thinking of the specific questions you are trying to address.
These questions should closely relate to the issues identified above. These are the questions that will form the basis of your analysis. Phrase them carefully as this will help narrow down your research. Be sure to include boundaries for your research by adding in phrases such as ‘in this estate,’ ‘by young people aged 16 to 25,’ wherever appropriate.
Resist the temptation to ask about lots of things that ‘it would be interesting to find out’ Only collect data that you need and will use – this is ethical and in line with data protection laws
5 What data will you collect? What research already exists in this area?
You might only need to do a review of what already exists
This is the stage at which you begin to select a strategic approach. If you are asking ‘how many’ or ‘how big’ you are taking a quantitative approach. If you are asking questions beginning ‘why or ‘how’ you are taking a qualitative approach. Remember you can combine different approaches and methods.
6 Where will this information come from?
By identifying the type of information you need and the people or other sources able to provide it, you will be creating the right mix of methods. Think about whether you need a broad overview or an in-depth response.
Are you looking for factual information, opinions or personal accounts?
7 Who will collect this data?
One member of the management committee and volunteers will form a team of community researchers.
8 How will the information be recorded?
9 How will the information be put together or analysed in order to answer the above questions?
Do you have the skills and resources to do this on a computer – or can you find someone who know how to do this?
10 How will the findings (the answers to the questions) be presented, disseminated, used or passed on?