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Use and Understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification

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2 METHODOLOGY

2.1 This chapter outlines the methodological approach adopted for this project.

Overall Approach

2.2 The brief prepared by the Scottish Government asked for information from a sample of users that was large enough to include users from a variety of organisations and disciplines and with a range of interests. The sample was not meant to be statistically representative but large and varied enough to provide a qualitative understanding of the range of uses and the understanding of the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification. This was to be achieved through a combination of questionnaire and interview. Desk-based research was also conducted to prepare for the fieldwork.

Desk Research

2.3 The first stage of this study was desk-based research to identify classifications (with a geographic component, particularly relating to an urban rural dimension) used throughout the UK, examining the criteria behind these classifications as well as their benefits and limitations.

2.4 This element of the project was also used to help develop the sampling frame for the quantitative (online) and qualitative (telephone interview) phases and fed into the questionnaire and topic guide development.

Sample and Distribution

2.5 A sampling frame was developed using Scottish Government distribution lists and names that emerged in the desk-based research. Scottish Government distribution lists included those with a rural interest, those who had registered with ScotStat 4 and those who already received information on the SG Urban Rural Classification. The distribution lists were cross-referenced and de-duplicated where necessary. De-duplication of ScotStat names was conducted by the Scottish Government to comply with data protection regulations.

Online Survey

2.6 The online survey was hosted on the researcher's dedicated survey website and was live from 11 th February until 3 rd March 2009. The key strength of this approach was that it allowed respondents to complete the survey at a time that suited them, in a format that was easily accessible in their working environment and which allowed them to pause to look up any information that they did not have to hand. The questionnaire format consisted of mainly closed (tick box) type questions but free-text spaces were made available for respondents to add additional information if required.

2.7 An additional benefit of the online approach was that questions that were relevant to one type of respondent but not to another could be 'routed' appropriately. This helped to maximise response rates by keeping the questionnaire as short and straightforward as possible for respondents.

2.8 The questionnaire was developed in conjunction with the project team at the Scottish Government. In order to ensure the questionnaire was clear and easy to understand, 5 pilot interviews were conducted among individuals from the Scottish Government, Local Authorities and Health Boards. All these respondents had experience of the SG Urban Rural Classification. In the light of comments made during these interviews, the online questionnaire was finalised.

2.9 Once a final questionnaire was agreed, each potential respondent was sent a request either by email or post to participate in the project. This request contained a link to the online questionnaire and asked the recipient to forward the information on to other potential respondents. A brief definition of the classification as well as a hyperlink to the Scottish Government Urban Rural Classification was included within the questionnaire to enable respondents to access relevant information if required.

2.10 A total of 412 individuals responded to this survey and their profile is provided in Chapter 4. Due to the nature by which the requests were disseminated, meaningful response rates cannot be calculated and any results should not be taken as representative of all policy makers and analysts within the relevant organisations.

2.11 A copy of the online survey questionnaire is provided in Appendix 1.

Telephone Interviews

2.12 A series of telephone interviews was undertaken in order to more fully explore some of the issues emerging from responses to the online survey as well as to gain insight into the way the SG Urban Rural Classification and other classifications are perceived and used across sectors. These interviews were completed between 6 th and 20 th March 2009.

2.13 All respondents participating in the online survey were asked if they were prepared to participate in a subsequent stage of work and 152 respondents agreed. Individuals for the telephone stage were selected according to their responses to the online questionnaire. This included those who used a range of different population classifications across a number of different organisation types. In addition, any issues emerging from the answers given online which needed clarification or more in-depth study were noted and respondents with possible contributions to these issues were identified. The telephone discussions were conducted by experienced researchers at George Street Research.

2.14 A total of 30 in-depth telephone interviews were conducted and the sample profile is provided in Chapter 4.

2.15 A copy of the topic guide used in the telephone discussions is provided in Appendix 2.

Approach to Reporting

2.16 The questionnaire included a number of core questions for all respondents who were then routed to different questions depending on whether they described themselves as policy makers/influencers or as analysts/researchers. The text in the report makes explicit where these questions were only asked of analysts/researchers or those involved in policy.

2.17 This report provides text of a primarily qualitative nature, although tables and charts have been added to illustrate responses from the closed questions from the online questionnaire and differences between groups of respondents have been highlighted.

2.18 The following chapter provides findings from the desk research and then Chapters 4 to 8 outline key findings from the online survey and telephone interviews and Chapter 9 provides concluding comments.