How to choose a method

Before choosing an engagement method, it is helpful to think about purpose and people.

The choice of different methods for engaging the public with your work can sometimes feel overwhelming. If you take some time to think about your purpose and the people you want to involve this can help to narrow down your choices and ensure the method you choose will be most effective in achieving your aims.


There are many possible reasons for engaging the public with your research, these can include:

  • Responding to societal needs or requests 
  • Sharing what we do to inspire learning and sense-making 
  • Creating knowledge together or doing research together 
  • Applying knowledge together to innovate or collaborate 
  • Learning from others 
  • Changing attitudes or behaviour 

Once you have identified your purpose, it’s time to think about who you will be engaging with.


Who you are planning to engage with should be a key determining factor when choosing your method, and it can help to be specific about who could or should be involved. People often talk about engaging with the general public, but who are the ‘general public’ and how can you ensure you engage with them effectively?

It can be helpful to break the public down into different types based on categories such as age, gender, ethnicity, location or interests. Examples of types of audience include:

  • Adults 
  • Black and minority ethnic groups 
  • Community groups 
  • Family groups 
  • Older people 
  • Service users 
  • Students 
  • Underserved audiences 
  • Young people 


Once you are clear about who you will be engaging with, and why you are engaging, the appropriate method will become clearer, and there is a wealth of guidance about which methods to choose on our website and elsewhere.

For example, if your purpose is to inspire learning in school children, you might want take a look at resources we’ve developed through our School-University Partnerships Initiative.

Or look at our choose a method page to find out about many different techniques and approaches.