Deciding how to conduct the survey

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In designing the fieldwork, you need to consider the following aspects:

Where to conduct interviews

Using one fixed point is a consistent approach, but it may not give you access to all the users of the network. Similarly, choosing the busiest place might help you reach the target number of interviews quickly, but the results may not be representative of the range of users on the network. If there are people counters installed, it makes sense to interview somewhere that you can use the data from the counter to aggregate your results.

How long it will take

The hardest part of the survey to get right is estimating how much time you will need to reach your target number of responses. The SNH Visitor Monitoring Manual suggests that you can expect to conduct 1.6 to 2.5 interviews per hour (based on a 12 minute interview). That’s between 10 and 15 interviews on a 6-hour shift. So to collect 384 responses (to meet the 5% confidence interval described in section 4.4) at this rate you would need to arrange between 25 and 35 days worth of interview time. The path benefits questionnaire usually takes 6-8 minutes and although this is unlikely to halve the amount of time required for data collection, you may need between 20 and 25 days of labour available in total.

The best time of day

There may be particular patterns of use on a network, such as early morning dog walking or commuters. If you want the evaluation to reach a wide range you need to make sure that these times are included. However, concentrating on busy times could miss the people who prefer to use the network when it is quiet. One particular issue is getting responses from people who are on their way to or from work. You might need to produce a flyer and invite them to answer the questionnaire directly online. Contact the Partnership for details of how to set this up.

The best time of year

If possible, you should try to collect data at different times of the year. This should help to give you a flavour of any seasonal differences, but there are a number of issues that you need to consider. Choosing to include or exclude main holiday periods (such as Easter or October ‘half-term’) could affect the proportion of visitors to locals that you interview. Equally, you need to consider interviewing on weekdays and at weekends, as there may be differences in who is using the network at these times. Whichever options you choose there are compromises, the important aspect of this is to recognise these when you are analysing the data - there is no right or wrong answer.

In the development of this toolkit, the researchers from SIRC decided to undertake three periods of data collection: summer, autumn and winter in order to get a view of who was using the networks at different times of year. During each period, they used two researchers who spent three days interviewing people, working 8 hours each day. This is considered to be the minimum amount of time needed to collect responses and it is possible that an additional period of data collection in Spring would be beneficial, to give a complete year.

About the toolkit

This toolkit has been designed and written by Walking-the-Talk based on research and initial development by the Sport Industry Research Centre at Sheffield Hallam University.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh