Accessibility and racial equality research methodology

Case study

A case study will be conducted in Northants Forest District (and East Midlands Conservancy). This district was chosen because it has a range of sizeable ethnic minority groups and a range of woodland types located both on the urban fringe and in isolated rural areas. The District Forest Manager has identified a need for the research and agreed to support it.

The case study will employ qualitative and quantitative methods.

Depending on the outcomes of this pilot study, a second case study may be conducted in a forest district in Scotland and/or Wales to represent isolated districts with small ethnic minority populations.

Sampling of woodlands, ethnic groups, communities and individuals

As with the selection of Northants Forest District, sampling of woodlands, ethnic groups, communities and individuals for study within the district will be purposeful rather than representative, and aim to provide exemplars that reveal the most important relationships between:

  • Ethnicity
  • Woodlands
  • Forestry Commission staff
  • Forestry Commission functions and services.

Woodland sites are likely to be selected according to the distance from urban centres, and physical attributes such as degree of ‘naturalness’ and history of management.

Specific Forestry Commission functions will be selected according to the principle of proportionality (i.e. those that appear to have the greatest impact on ethnic minority groups) and will become the focus of applied research to develop methods for ethnic monitoring. Priority functions are likely to be those relating to recreation and access, and working with communities.

Qualitative research

Semi-structured interviews will be conducted with relevant Forestry Commission staff (in particular those engaged with management, planning, consultation, education, and recreation), local government, NGO, and community representatives, and members of ethnic minority groups including users and non-users of Forestry Commission services. A small number of focus groups with members of ethnic minority groups will supplement interview data. External contractors may be used to conduct some of the qualitative research.

Quantitive research

Quantitative research will include compilation of existing statistics on the ethnic composition of the district, and the catchment areas of selected sites, which may be overlaid with existing GIS-based data drawn from the National Inventory of Woods and Trees, and The Woodland Trust Space For People Project. This may inform the selection of research subjects and locations, and may help to determine the degree of representation of ethnic minority groups.

Existing visitor survey data for the district, and comparable districts, will be used where available, possibly supplemented by a limited amount of new survey research at selected woodland sites.

Questionnaires may be used to gain further information from Forestry Commission staff, and targeted ethnic minority groups.


Transcribed interview and focus group texts will be analysed using QSR Nvivo software. Forestry Commission statisticians will assist with the collation and analysis of data on ethnic composition and visitor surveys. Research informants will be invited to participate in the analysis of data and production of research findings.


It is acknowledged that race equality can be a sensitive issue for any public authority, including Forestry Commission. The researchers’ ethical responsibilities towards research participants, professional colleagues, sponsors, and the wider public are being considered carefully in accordance with the Social and Economic Research Group Ethical Statement, which in turn is based upon the ethical guidelines of the Social Research Association and British Sociological Association.