Research - Ketso as a method


Ketso offers support for every stage of the research process, from initial brainstorming of possible areas to research, to developing a research questions with stakeholders and a research team, to data gathering, to analysis, to dissemination and exploration of the uses and impact of results. Ketso can also be used to help plan and structure the writing of reports and articles from research.

For more insight into how Ketso can be used in research, take a look at our Ketso in Research Video.

For information on how to reference Ketso in a report or paper, see this FAQ.

See a list of PhDs using Ketso here. To learn about Ketso in teaching & learning and in student engagement, see these case studies.

Examples of how Ketso has been used in research include:

You may also wish to look at these examples of using Ketso to engage the public with Universities. Several of our international development examples are also research projects.

Ketso and data gathering - an overview

Ketso offers a tried-and-tested tool for data gathering, which helps participants to express their ideas - even those who find it difficult to talk in front of groups. The hands-on nature of the tool makes it ideal tool for managing focus groups and other consultations. Participants are able to go beyond just giving data, and are able to actively engage in finding patterns and prioritising ideas.

Ketso has been used to gather data from groups that are traditionally seen as 'hard-to-reach', including young people and refugees and asylum seekers. The fact that data can be gathered rapidly also makes it ideal for data gathering with busy people, such as executives and policy makers, and Ketso has been used in research in major companies and government agencies as well as in community settings.

Ketso is highly portable and can be used just about anywhere - on a tabletop, hung on wall, outdoors in a park - and without the need for batteries, cables and other limitations.

Data from participants (in the form of ideas written on leaves and developed into patterns on the felt) is captured in a physical artefact, which can then be transcribed into spreadsheets and analysed in depth. See this page for more information on the tools we provide for capturing and analysing data.

"What struck me most, aside from the speed at which information and data can be generated, was the speed at which one can begin to analyse and see patterns coming out of the data. Ketso as a flexible, yet methodical way to both collect and bring together focus group type data, is a something I will definitely consider using when conducting my own group workshops".

Samuel Hayes, PhD Researcher in the School of Environment and Development at the University of Manchester

A particpant at a workshop introducing Ketso for research commented:

"Ketso would be good as an alternative to some aspects of NVivo for people who prefer to be ‘hands on’ before entering their research data to the computer. I also particularly like the way it is inclusive -  useful for groups where some are shy and others dominant".

Ketso emerged from research, and is now a case study for the ESRC in impact from social science, as can be seen in this booklet from the ESRC and this accompanying brief video.

Ketso used in focus groups at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

Dr Stefanie Khoury and Professor David Whyte, from the University of Liverpool’s School of Sociology, Social Policy and Criminology, used Ketso in a series of focus groups at the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) to assess a recommendation to extend "the International Criminal Court Statute to allow corporations, as well as people and states, to be prosecuted for corporate human rights abuse... [The focus groups were] made up of senior judges, lawyers and members from the Registrar’s office, to assess the issue and determine the best route forward" (University of Liverpool news).

Professor David Whyte comments:

"Using Ketso was important to the research team for two reasons - it allowed the participants to lead the discussion in directions that were completely unanticipated and for this reason more illuminating than a standard focus group format.  Ketso also allowed us to conduct 5 discussion groups simultaneously and so made the project viable in the time we had.  It is a great research tool for projects that don't have a lot of spare time and resources."

Download the full report (pdf).

Research with refugees, asylum seekers and migrants (University of Glasgow)

GRAMNet is a network based in the University of Glasgow, which brings together community groups, researchers, practitioners, NGOs and policy makers working with migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Scotland.

GRAMNet’s research has been featured in the publication: Big Ideas for the Future, published by Research Council UK (RCUK) and Universities UK. To see a brief video about their research, click here.

Through GRAMNet, Ketso has been used in events across Scotland, Jordan, New Zealand, Australia, the Palestine and Russia.

GRAMNet uses Ketso in a variety of ways, from working with Masters students and groups working in the community to develop ideas for collaborative masters, to engaging with refugees and asylum seekers in research and workshops to find out everyone's views.

ESRC-funded research into the social and cultural costs and benefits of migration to Scotland used Ketso as a data gathering tool. The GRAMNet team worked with Black, Ethnic and Minority Infrastructure Scotland (BEMIS) to create guidance on ethical research with black and ethnic minority communities.

What is striking for GRAMNet researchers is the fact that unlike many research data gathering tools (e.g. recorded interviews or surveys using a clipboard), Ketso does not looks anything like the tools used in interviews with the authorities. Such tools can often raise unpleasant associations for people who have been through traumatic deportation interviews.

Alison Phipps OBE, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies, Former Associate Dean (Postgraduate) at University of Glasgow and a co-founder of GRAMNet commented:
“I have done workshop after workshop, all of them consultative and consent building. Ketso is the best workshop tool I have come across. I know all of the research you have built this on, and it really makes sense. I have worked in research training for a decade, and this is a superb tool for building skills as well.”

The team has found that using Ketso in workshops with partners has helped them to develop several successful reserach bids (a total of £5 million). “The research and conception behind KETSO has enabled GRAMNET to devise innovative partnerships and projects and harness the creative capacity of its members during the year” (2011-2012 Annual Report).

Read more about GRAMNet's innovative work with stakeholders here.

Mapping information landscapes in the workplace

Dr. Drew Whitworth, School of Environment, Education and Development, The University of Manchester

Models of workplace change management are often indifferent to how informational resources available to staff change over time, and how perceptions of these resources differ between groups. Research undertaken at the University of Manchester seeks to address these issues through the development of concept mapping tools and techniques. Early results have been used within the Norwegian academic library sector, with follow-on studies planned within additional HEI settings.

When significant change is required within an institution, it is essential that the human aspects of change are foregrounded, and all stakeholders are able to obtain a sense of ownership. Yet too frequently, the principles of shared understanding are side-lined, with many stakeholder groups lacking a voice, as well as the capacity to influence change.

A study of two Norwegian academic libraries, funded by the Norwegian National Library – Bibliotek i Endring (BIE, Changing Libraries) – addresses this issue. BiE is a co-operative enquiry, involving significant contributions from the management and staff. It uses an innovative and original concept mapping methodology, incorporating the Ketso creative engagement toolkit. This was advantageous at a number of levels:

  • A rich dataset was continuously generated over the course of a year, providing an overview of the whole change process – including the outcomes of a campus merger and a new directorial appointment – as it played out in real-time.
  • Whilst based on a sociological understanding of workplace transformation, and how communities of practice operate within corporate settings, the bottom-up nature of this engagement was open to local and place-specific aspects change.
  • Through sustained self-reflection and data interrogation, including two project workshops, outcomes from each of the six concept mapping sessions were immediately rendered useful to participants, and subsequently fed back into the processes of change they documented.

Researchers and library staff used Ketso to map their information landscapes, during six sessions, at two-monthly intervals over a year (October 2013 - September 2014). One reason Ketso was used is "its durability and the way the leaves can be easily removed or repositioned" (Whitworth, Torras I Calvo, Moss, Kifle, Blåsternes, 2014). A total of 28 library staff members participated in the project, with two additional interview sessions conducted with each participant (June 2013 & September 2014).

A number of lessons emerged for our partners:

  • Concept maps that record changes in resources, and connections between them, are effective forms of management data. They lay bare the evolution of the information landscape within an organisational unit.
  • Some areas designated as a priority by participants remained largely stable between engagement sessions. This marked them as both areas of neglect, and potential institutional blockages.
  • Reorganisation brings new opportunities and allows for specialisation; however new models of professional development may be required, to address deficits in informational capacity.
  • Whilst consolidation promises clearer hierarchies and the possibility of greater control of change, the need for inclusive management comes increasingly to the fore.

More information about this project and its results can be found here.

Music and art produced by women

Susan O'Shea, Research Associate, Mitchell Centre for Social Network Analysis, Sociology, University of Manchester

This research used social network analysis to examine the Ladyfest feminist music and cultural movement in the UK. It explored how music and art by women is produced, distributed and received by local communities of feminist activists, taking into account contemporary issues for feminist music based communities as well as the historical and international context of these overlapping and developing social movements, including Girls’ Rock Camp and Riot Grrrl. Ladyfest is a transnational not-for-profit festival with a feminist ethos. It is aimed at supporting women and girls to participate more in social and cultural life and to explore gender issues through music, art and other creative activities.

I use a mixed-methods approach to data gathering and analysis; combining on-line social media sources; survey research methods; participatory research methods; interviews; focus groups; qualitative and quantitative network analysis. Public engagement and collaborative research is central to my work and I look for innovative ways to disseminate findings through workshops, seminars, conferences and through social media.

Ketso has been an invaluable tool at every stage of my work from planning, to engaging with research participants to find out what they want, to stakeholders being involved with the project, to testing research themes. I have also used Ketso to facilitate group work with participants to help them plan their events. I have been lucky enough to work with a class in a multi-ethnic London girl’s school helping them to plan their own small Ladyfest event. This enabled them to talk through issues they found important as young women negotiating gender roles and cultural expectations while trying to create their own creative spaces.

Ketso as a tool has been invaluable for dealing with issues of inequality in social and cultural participation as it helps to break down cultural, linguistic and social barriers and allows people to contribute to discussions regardless of their confidence levels. Without the tool managing large discussion and focus groups would not have been as effective. Ketso has also allowed me to take my research to diverse settings and provide spaces for engaging creatively with feminist topics and gender sensitive topics from conference settings, to theatre groups, to festivals and schools.

Community-based participatory research in Russia

In late 2011, Ketso was introduced to the Nizhny Novgorod State University and used in participatory research in Russia.The project was looking at Participatory approaches to poverty reduction: a view from small-town Russia

The team used the following methods of enquiry:

  • Open-ended semi-structured 'expert' interviews with professionals involved in welfare policy implementation and provision, with the leaders of local NGOs and advocacy groups, and with local entrepreneurs involved in 'socially responsible business' programmes
  • Ethnographic interviews with families experiencing poverty
  • Participant observation - researchers attended regular activities and events organised by a range of state and non-state support structures, NGOs and advocacy groups working on poverty issues in the town

Read more about the project here.

Following this successful use of Ketso in this research, a second workshop was run in Nizhny Novgorod State University  (NNGU), in which Prof Kay introduced Ketso to students and university staff.

The Faculty of Social Science is now using the Ketso kit in their practical training of sociologists and social scientists within the faculty, as well as in its research.

Rights to the City (University of Manchester)

Dr. Melanie Lombard (Lecturer in Urban Development, Global Urban Research Centre)

Rights to the city

A research workshop focussed on Rights to the City was held by the Global Urban Research Centre (GURC) at the University of Manchester. Ketso was used to gather perspectives from the international researchers who came together to explore this emerging area of research.  During the session, two groups were formed of six and nine participants respectively. One branch of the Ketso was dedicated to a discussion on people’s experiences of the ‘Right to the City’; another for how they believe this concept influences research; and a further for the policy implications of such a concept.

"I found the brainstorming tool quite useful as I find visual aides helpful. Condensing thoughts into one word for the leaf was productive, too. Mainly, it helped tie the day together for me, after the different lectures. The different outcomes of the trees for the two groups were very interesting too, showing that the metaphor of a tree with branches is not only thought-provoking, but flexible enough to accommodate different group dynamics" (Claudia, participant).

Rights to the city 2

Several participants agreed that Ketso’s metaphorical use of a tree was excellent at cultivating a natural flow of discussion between participants rather than the commonly used markers and paper. They felt that the use of leaves to denote types of thoughts was not only a novel idea, but allowed participants to see the connections between the negative and the positive aspects of the concept.

"At the end of the Right to the City workshop, all participants shared their opinions and points of view about the role of the urban planning in improvement quality of life, of the policies’ transparency and of the accessibility of citizenship rights. … The result has been a mix of inputs, from which a debate has begun about their relationships and conflicts. Especially for me, as a young Italian PhD student, this has been the first occasion to share thoughts and observations in a formative, multicultural and multidisciplinary context. So, I have been not only a passive spectator, but an active member in stimulating the debate" (Giuseppe, participant).

Please see GURC's website for the full workshop report, pg. 24 has more information on the use of Ketso.

Business and Biodiversity (University of Pretoria)

Dr. Eben le Roux (Centre for Responsible Leadership, University of Pretoria)

This exploratory workshop on Sept. 15, 2010 brought together interested stakeholders for investigating the opportunities and challenges relating to the interface between business and biodiversity - the importance of which has been highlighted explicitly by inter alia conventions such as the Convention On Biological Diversity, charters such as the Jakarta Charter on Business and Biodiversity, and research reports such as the TEEB report  for business. In recognition of the importance of research and collaboration into this area, the Centre for Responsible Leadership at the University of Pretoria and the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) wanted to explore the current actions already undertaken by business and other stakeholders in this area.

The workshop focus was therefore to obtain stakeholder perspectives on the uniqueness, potential format, as well as value proposition of a platform for hosting collaboration and research in the Southern African context. The workshop was attended by representatives from the Endangered Wildlife Trust, the environmental media, the CSIR, the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Eskom, and the Department of Environmental Affairs, as well as a multidisciplinary group of staff members from the University of Pretoria.

The key differentiator (focus area) of the business and biodiversity initiative came to be seen as 'Thought leadership for a changing paradigm'. Further unpacking of this focus is still required, and developing a business and biodiversity charter was seen as a first step towards defining a common goal.

The main ideas in terms of ‘how’ this focus could be achieved, included: 1) awareness raising and training, 2) generating impetus for changes in policy, and 3) inter-disciplinary research and collaboration.

Participants envisaged a one-stop shop (institute) on advisory and expert opinions/services, in which options and approaches (information, best practice, tools, collation) could be provided to business, so that business could adapt as they see fit. There would also have to be targeted science/policy dialogues. In the interest of maintaining effectiveness, participants also highlighted general principles that they considered important on an operational & strategic level, for such a ‘one-stop shop’.

Since this workshop, funding has been granted to establish a new Unit for Business and Biodiversity Leadership, with the following roles:

  • foster inter-disciplinary research and collaboration,
  • advocate for changes in policy,
  • capacity building, encompassing the development and roll-out of training / action research interventions

Download the full report here.

Action research in Tesco with the Sustainable Consumption Institute (University of Manchester)

Tippett, Dr. Joanne; Farnsworth, Dr. Valerie; How, Fraser; Le Roux, Dr. Ebenhaezer; Mann, Dr. Pete; Sherriff, Dr. Graeme

Sir Terry Leahy, Tesco’s CEO, set the stage for Tesco to be a leader in creating a low carbon economy, saying in 2007: “We are going to have to re-think the way we live and work.” 

Dr. Joanne Tippett and a team of researchers undertook two action research projects funded by the Sustainable Consumption Institute, working with Tesco staff. These were: "Improving sustainability skills in the workplace" and "Scaling up sustainability learning" (Nov 2008 - July 2010). The aims of the two projects were:

  • To identify effective training and communication methods to enable people to understand sustainability issues and take action – and to implement and assess a learning pilot which delivers this in Tesco
  • To find effective ways to embed new thinking that maximises people’s understanding of sustainability and changes in behaviour, in the context of ‘training the trainers’

Feedback from Tesco staff involved was positive, demonstrating significant shifts in attitude and awareness, and increased motivation to take action towards a sustainable future.

Ketso was used a key data-gathering tool in these project. Overall, both projects involved 78 members of staff (30 in Stores and 48 in Head Office) attending training (five courses in total), with 105 additional members of staff being interviewed or attending focus groups facilitated with Ketso.  The questions explored: Participants’ understandings of sustainability; what works well in sustainability training and learning in Tesco; how new approaches and practices are introduced and embedded in Tesco; and examples of sustainable behaviour and practice in Tesco.

Ketso was also used as a tool for encouraging dialogue in the training, which enabled the gathering of rich research data to explore staff perceptions and changes in knowledge, understanding and attitudes as a result of the training programme. 

The Ketso toolkit used in this research provides a concrete example of an action research method deployed purposefully for both development of learners (action) and collection and clustering of data (research). In the first round of research, participants were asked for their reaction to the use of Ketso in learning. Of the 23 responders,12 found using Ketso to be 'very helpful' for their learning, 9 found it to be 'helpful' and 2 found it to be 'in the middle', whilst none found it to be 'unhelpful' or 'very unhelfpul'.

Overall, the groups expressed positive reactions to the use of felt-based visual representations of the RoundView Guidelines (which emerged from the research) and the use of interactive, moveable felt based tools.  Richard Sullivan, Head of Pay and Rewards at Tesco and a key liaison person for the research project commented:  "Using Ketso is an activity where everyone can contribute. This is the sort of tool that Tesco employees really like to use - hands on, visual and it lets everyone shape the outcomes". Feedback gathered during the research included:

  • Different and more engaging.
  • Somehow less corporate and more personal.
  • More interactive and ‘refreshing’.

The research team used a combination of 'felt based animation' and Ketso leaves to incorporate ideas from participants into the Guidelines for Sustainability.  Participants commented that it was good to be able to add and remove parts, and to use this as a way to ‘drive points home’. It was also seen as ‘easier to visualise the issues’ and understand ‘how it all relates to each other, e.g. cycles animation’ and to ‘see it build up over time’. Additionally, it was noted from a practical point of view, Stores are unlikely to have computers and projectors and this approach may therefore be more practical for training in Stores.

Ketso not only allows the researcher to gather data from all participants, it enables the capture of a good deal of data quickly. From a research methodological standpoint, the Ketso toolkit supports the inductive character of action research, that of ‘doing the particular’ to generate ‘understanding of the general’.

To learn more about the sustainability framework that emerged from this research, visit the RoundView website.

To download reports from this project, click on the links below:

For an article about this research- click here.

Action Research- Capacity Building in Environmental Planning

Dr. Joanne Tippett and Dr. Emma Griffiths conducted a research project sponsored by the Environment Agency NorthWest called: Joining-up participation in environmental planning – developing a learning resource for capacity-building.

This project developed new methods for developing practitioners’ abilities to facilitate stakeholder engagement in planning. The Project Manager developed a capacity building programme for an integrated approach to participation, and tested it with trainee facilitators. Ketso was used for both the capacity building for facilitators and gathering ideas for the launch of the Green City Network, where trainee facilitators worked with a group of over 100 people.

The research highlighted several key themes for effective training in these skills:

  • Create an action learning approach
  • Actively encourage reflective practice
  • Develop peer networks and mentoring opportunities
  • Create supportive conditions for learning
  • Develop learning from participants’ own understandings
  • Incorporate a diversity of approaches and perspectives
  • Encourage a holistic view and working across scales
  • Incorporate learning about systems thinking and sustainability

You can download the full report about capacity building here, and the report from the launch of the Green City Network here.

PhD training and development - ESRC Doctoral Training Centre Conference

The ESRC held a conference for first year students from its recently founded Doctoral Training Centres at the Hilton Metropole in Brighton on Sept. 6, 2012. As part of this event, two workshops were offered, both entitled ‘Making the most of your Studentship’.

The workshops were chaired by Esther Wilkinson from the ESRC. The interactive discussion was facilitated by Dr.Joanne Tippett, a lecturer at the University of Manchester and Founder of Ketso. Paul Meller from the ESRC and Dimitris Dalakoglou at the University of Sussex, who holds an ESRC-Future Research Leaders grant, provided input.

Sixty-two participants from Universities across the UK took part in these two workshops.

You can download the report here.

For more examples of PhD and researcher training and development, click here.

Training in Ketso for use in research

Eighteen researchers spent 3 hours learning about using Ketso in research on April 24, 2013, at a Methods@Manchester workshop at the University of Manchester. Participants came from the Universities of Lancaster, Liverpool John Moores, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool and Wales, as well as Scottish Women's Aid in Edinburgh. Research interests were as diverse as biostatistics, drama, politics, innovation, health care, social work and the student experience.

Feedback was great, with 14 out of 15 respondents finding the workshop 'very useful' and 'very interesting'.

Comments included: "Helped me to reflect on the important issues in the practice of research" & "Very interesting. Thank you" & "Very good – would love to find out more – good ‘taster'. " The main requests for improvement were requests for more time to explore ideas.

During the workshop, participants explored the topic 'Gathering data (research methods)' for an hour of interactive discussion using Ketso. This was followed by a brief exercise using the Ketso grid to assess research methods against different criteria (as an exercise to show how you can use Ketso in different ways, e.g. allowing participants to score ideas against criteria).

The results from these workshops can be downloaded from the following links (and there is a synthesis of key ideas below).

The PowerPoint slides used during the workshop can be downloaded below:

In a brief exercise asking how participants could use Ketso in their work, responses covered every stage of the research process, from developing research to writing the reports and creating policy recommendations, e.g.:

  • Framing ideas for issues to explore/research   
  • Developing research proposals (with engagement)
  • Getting a good grant   
  • Participant lead action research
  • Ask people for their views prior to a participatory workshop and then after to measure change   
  • Engage young people in the research process       
  • Team analysis of qualitative data
  • Study participants confirming understanding - re data analysis/priorities/interpretation
  • I will use it to elicit recommendations for policy in Foresight workshops   
  • Collaborative production of reports

The full set of ideas can be downloaded here.    

Ideas that were highlighted by participants as important (using icons) are summarised below. Charts showing the proportion of ideas developed against different branches, and the proportion of different types of ideas, are shown alongside these highlighted ideas. These were generated using the custom-made spreadsheet we have developed for recording and analysing Ketso data.

What works

  • Dialogue
  • Data security
  • A clear methodology
  • Clear instructions
  • An approach that participants are comfortable with
  • Informed consent
  • Effective recruitment
  • Listening

New ideas

  • Visual methods
  • Ketso as a research method (!)
  • Telephone interviews
  • Getting participants 'buy-in' from the start
  • User involvement
  • Participation at the start
  • User' involvement to refine research process
  • Appropriate feasibility testing
  • Being realistic when planning research
  • Facebook and social media
  • Social media (IIII)
  • Performance
  • Creative (IIIII)

A sample of participants' goals for using Ketso

  • To get valid and ethical data
  • Ensuring participation
  • Provide meaningful information from a range of perspectives
  • Making a difference to people
  • Be more creative in exploring data collection methods
  • Motivating participants to be involved
  • Participant contribution - develop right question/involvement
  • Building research with participants
  • Empowering the patient voice
  • Feeding back to clinicians
  • Findings have potential to make a positive change
  • Social impact
  • "Playing"/fun/creativity
  • Testing the use of Ketso in the classroom
  • Learning how Ketso works with group dynamics
  • Youth work in a Latin American context
  • Learning about people's experiences
  • Communicating and addressing needs of all actors/stakeholders