Methodology

The approach used in this research can be described as “user-led” and was based on Personal Construct Theory (Kelly 1955) and the use of Facet Theory (Canter 1977; Shye 1978; Shye et al.1994; Borg and Shye 1995) in the development of the questionnaire. This approach typically starts by ex­ploring issues with members of the public, especially those representing target groups, for example those of concern to policy makers, such as eld­erly or disabled people, members of ethnic or socially disadvantaged groups etc. The issues raised by these groups are then used to develop questions applied to a wider population. Contrasting views can be obtained by discussing the same issues with professionals involved in the field of research.

For this project this methodological model was applied through the ex­ploration of key issues with members of the public carried out through a number of focus groups located in different parts of the East Midlands area. The results of the focus group research informed the development of a questionnaire used for data gathering from members of the public visit­ing a number of different “green” areas widely distributed around the East Midlands. A scoping meeting (another form of focus group) was also held with people concerned with nature conservation, including the manage­ment of sites such as nature reserves, woodland and parks.

The central objectives of the project as provided in the brief were used as starting points from which to develop the focus group discussions and to understand key issues that were raised. Once identified, usually as the re­sult of the frequency with which people raised the same issue in different groups, the key issues concerning the use people make of, and the feelings they have towards, green spaces were classified into three categories as follows:

• The physical aspects of green spaces

• The activities that people engage in related to green spaces

• The perceptions that people have about green spaces

Table 1 shows these categories and the issues raised in the focus groups which formed the basis of the questionnaire. The questionnaire was con­structed from the issues listed in Table 1 using the Facet approach. This uses a “mapping sentence” to construct statements to which interviewees are requested to state levels of agreement or disagreement, along a numeri­cal scale. The scores obtained from this scale then permit statistical analy­sis. The construction of a mapping sentence is shown in Fig. 1.

The attitudes of person X towards

Nature/green space Range from

+ 4

г ч

Physical aspects

Strongly Disagree

Activities

► H

To

Perceptions

Strongly Agree

Si *

Fig. 1. Construction of the mapping sentence using Facet Theory. Person X is de­fined using the background information

Table 1. Main issues that people raised about the use they make and the feelings they have towards green spaces, from the focus groups

Physical aspects of the

Activities that occur in

The Perceptions that peo-

green space

green spaces

ple hold about green spaces

Information about nature

Education

Spiritual

is present

Walking alone

Magical

Tidiness

Relaxation

Boring

Urban/Rural

Viewing wildlife

Peaceful

Advertised

Exercising

Feel “free”

Accessible

Stress relief

Feel “vulnerable”

Man made

Meeting people

Feel “energetic”

Proximity to home

Community events

Close to nature

Signage to direct to site

Conservation work

Commercial

Maintenance

Being reminded of child-

Owned by community

Wardens present Well known to individual

hood places

Important Adventure Vandalism Comfortable Relevant to lifestyle