There are a number of different techniques that can be employed when working with the public. The approach you use will depend on your aims and what stage of the research cycle you are at. For example, will the public have the opportunity to decide what your research question is? Or, has this already been decided? Do you want the public voice to guide your research? Could a public contributor be a member of the research team?
You may already know of different ways of involving the public voice in your research. A few examples the NIHR Glossary include:
- Advisory Groups – many research projects have an advisory group (or steering group). The group helps to develop, support, advise and monitor the project. The group often includes people who use services, carers, researchers and other health and social care professionals, who can provide relevant advice.
- Focus Groups – these are small groups of people brought together to talk. The purpose is to listen and gather information. Although focus groups are a recognised research methodology, they can also be used for PCIE, as a good way to find out how people feel or think about an issue, or to come up with possible solutions to problems. (If you choose to use Focus Groups within your project, please ensure you are clear if you're doing this as a research method with participants or as public involvement).
- Open Forums – these are similar to focus groups but on a larger scale.
- Communities of Practice – also known as also known as Communities of Experience. These groups are about bringing people with relevant experience together, so they can talk about the needs around a topic and turn those conversations into research questions, or make sure that local research is addressing them.
- Ask for feedback using user-friendly forms or one-to-one conversations.
Rather than sticking with just one approach we would encourage you to look at different options. A good place to start for this is the Involve website (see below), which outlines a large number of methods depending on your aim.
Links to Resources:
Putting people at the heart of decision making, this organisation list a number of ways to hold meeting with public members. INVOLVE.
The Participation Group at the Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, focus their work on global issues but the ideas and methods relate to working in UK communities as well.
A practical and easy to follow guide put together by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement: How to organise focus groups.