Cookies on oxfam

We use cookies to ensure that you have the best experience on our website. If you continue browsing, we’ll assume that you are happy to receive all our cookies. You can change your cookie settings at any time. Find out more Close

New guidelines for the intrepid development researcher

Posted by Martin Walsh Global Research Adviser

5th Nov 2015

An Oxfam focus group in Douentza, Mali, 2013. Credit: Habibatou Gologo/Oxfam

Conducting high quality research is an essential aspect of programme design, evaluation and communication. Here Martin Walsh, Global Research Adviser, introduces our research guidelines, now with three new topics, to set you off on your research journey.

Our research guidelines, first launched three years ago, have proved to be very popular. And today's exciting news is that we've added three more guidelines to the set: Conducting focus groups, Planning survey research, and Writing an executive summary.

The guidelines were initially written for Oxfam staff and our partners, but since we made them public they have proved to be among the most popular of our online resources, used by academics and their field assistants as well as by development workers commissioning, managing, and undertaking research themselves. Our guideline on Conducting semi-structured interviews has even been cited a number of times in academic papers and reports.

Focus groups and surveys are among the most widely used methods in development research and evaluation at community level. The studies undertaken by Oxfam and its partners often involve one or the other, and sometimes both. Our research on Women's Collective Action, for example, included rigorous household surveys and focus group discussions in different local communities and agricultural sectors in Ethiopia, Mali and Tanzania. A mixture of methods including these two is also being used in our ongoing WE-Care (Women's Economic Empowerment and Care) initiative

Where possible, our Effectiveness Reviews are based on survey research. The first of our in-depth follow-up studies of one of these impact evaluations, which was about a disaster risk management programme in Pakistan, made extensive use of focus group discussions.

These are, of course, not the only research methods that we use. Some are already the subject of research guidelines; others will be added, including a guideline on sampling for surveys (currently in draft). 

As well as methods, the guidelines cover different aspects of the research process, including the communication of research. Writing an executive summary comes under this heading. We are also planning to expand the series to include guides to understanding important research concepts, together with a sub-series of short case studies of research practice that illustrate different methods and processes.

Here is the full list of published research guidelines, some of which are also available in French and Spanish:

Writing terms of reference for research
Undertaking research with ethics
Reviewing the existing literature
Conducting semi-structured interviews
Researching human interest stories
Conducting focus groups
Planning survey research
Creating killer facts and graphics
Writing for impact - lessons from journalism
Writing an executive summary
Oxfam style guide for notes, references and bibliographies

Read more

Photo: An Oxfam focus group in Douentza, Mali, 2013. Credit: Habibatou Gologo/Oxfam

Blog post written by Martin Walsh

Global Research Adviser

More by Martin Walsh

Martin Walsh