Tools for small-scale research

This tool group provides an overview of ways to do small scale research, as well as some more detailed instructions for some of the methods:

  • How to use existing knowledge?
  • How to do an interview? (one-page instructions + downloadable manual and checklist)
  • How to do field observations? (one-page instructions + downloadable manual and checklist)
  • How to do a survey study? (one-page instructions + downloadable manual and checklist)
  • How to conduct focus group discussions? (one-page instructions + downloadable manual and checklist)

Click on the headings below to read more about each tool.

N.B. Remember to summarise the key points that you learned from your small-scale research so you can use them later. We also warmly recommend at least some face-to-face contact with the target group already at this stage. Talking to people in real life gives a ‘face’ to your target group, increases your own motivation helps to pre-market your project.

Picture_018.jpgInterviews are a way to gather knowledge about the experiences, attitudes, opinions and preferences of people, in their own words. Depending on your need, you can conduct an interview using a predefined set of questions (structured interview) that will be presented to all interviewees. Alternatively, you can have a more open set of questions (semi-structured interview) that can vary according to how each interviewee responds.

Picture_001_0.jpgField observations are a method where you observe people in ‘real’ locations and situations, such as workplaces, homes, etc.  They can be particularly helpful if the causes of 'wasteful' energy behaviour are not clear to you. Field observations help you to understand people's behaviour, habits, needs and social relations in their environment.

iStock_000008342060XSmall.jpgUsing a survey study – even a small one – can give you knowledge about the thoughts, opinions and habits of a larger group of people that you could attain using other methods (interviews, observations, etc.). Survey studies enable you to gather information in a consistent manner, because all the respondents answer the same questions.

normal_ryhmakeskustelu_pr.jpgA focus group discussion is a ‘group interview’ with ideally about 6-8 people. It is particularly suitable for testing new ideas, because the group context and informal discussion helps people to make sense of new things. It can also help you to gain a better understanding of the reasons behind people’s action and opinions.

use_existing_research.jpgIn some cases, you don't have to "produce" new knowledge about the target group, because the knowledge you need already exists - you just have to drag it out. You can do this by either reviewing easily available written documents about the target group or interviewing your colleagues or other experts about the target group.