1.4.4 Targeted research

Targeted research can be used to focus on specific issues that have emerged from broad research, on particular groups within target communities, or on particular aspects of an initiative's work. That is to say, from broad research some of the main issues and areas of work that are appropriate and/or important to explore for the initiative's development will have been identified - the major themes, and sub-themes within them.

Next we need to conduct research targeted specifically on these themes and sub-themes. For example, 'health' might be a major theme, and within this theme you know that 'anaemia' is of particular concern.

Targeted research will:

  • Respond to gaps in knowledge
  • Relate to themes that have emerged during your broad research
  • Aim to explore and answer specific, focused questions about your project
  • To monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the project

The central question is: what more do you need to know in order to plan effective interventions? Targeted research should also involve consultation in order to get people's agreement about issues and priorities.

For example, your broad research may have uncovered the ethnic mix of your community while your observations, user surveys and interactions with users have revealed that this ethnic breakdown is not reflected in the users participating in the initiative.

It might be appropriate to explore why certain groups in a community do not engage well with an initiative, or why others do. What are the restrictions and freedoms that determine what activities these groups can participate in?

You may consider age, gender, ethnicity, religion, social class, geographic proximity in relation to the project, occupation etc. It may be necessary to explore what these groups want to get from the project and whether they think they are able to achieve this. What are the barriers to their participation? How can you address or overcome these barriers?

Targeted research can be undertaken on a number of different issues throughout an initiative's life. The same issues may be researched more than once as an initiative and local participation develops.

In essence, targeted research should have a clear focus - it should aim to answer clear and specific questions such as 'why are young women not taking advantage of the services we are offering them?' or 'what do the young women who use our initiative facilities feel about us and what do they gain from the services we offer?' In this way an EAR researcher will obtain information that can be fed back into an initiative's development, improving the appropriateness of services.

It will be useful to use a range of methods to explore the issues and themes identified through broad research. Some methods might be found to be more useful than others when working with specific groups - perhaps young women prefer to talk in groups rather than individually and often a combination of group and individual interviews will reveal more. Participant observation should be undertaken and field notes should be kept at all stages of research and project development. Other methods (tools) should be used in addition. Each piece of research undertaken will be planned in advance, with methods chosen that are appropriate to that plan.

To plan targeted research it is necessary to do the following:

  • Clarify needs and problems
  • Prioritize issues and objectives - e.g. poverty, health, inequality, social conflicts
  • Identify gaps in your knowledge and areas where you need to produce rich data on targeted themes
  • Build on relationships with stakeholders and communities
  • Engage participants
  • Consider the resources that will be required to conduct the research, and the time that it will take