Sharpham Trust forest

The toolkit contains a range of different research methods, some quick to carry out, others more time-consuming. They collect different kinds of information and may be more suited to some groups than others, e.g. some work well with people who are happy to answer interview questions, while others are more suitable with people who have limited verbal communication.

When choosing research methods you need to consider:

  • what your participant are like and how often you will see them
  • what information/evidence you want to collect
  • how much time you have to gather and analyse it.

Think about the indicators and your research question and make sure your method collects the information you need. Be aware of your own bias and stay open to finding evidence of things you haven’t considered before.

You may be able to integrate your research into the activity, which may be especially helpful if you are the researcher as well the activity leader. Make sure everyone involved in the project knows what you’re doing and why. This can help prevent your research from dominating the woodland experience and means your research is supported by colleagues.

You could trial methods first with colleagues (or the research participants) to see which you feel most comfortable with and which gather useful evidence. Think about whether you want the participants to take an active role in gathering data, as some research methods can do this (peer-to-peer research and sharing research findings with participants).

If you plan to use several methods, don’t use too many but choose two or three that complement each other by backing up findings or gathering different kinds of evidence. Consider keeping a reflective diary: this can be very useful for complementing other methods as well as being a valuable record in its own right.

When you have chosen your research methods, note down what you have chosen and why – this can save time later when you are reporting.

You may find it helpful to use this list of questions to help you choose the most appropriate methods:

Questions to help you choose research methods (pdf)