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At its broadest sense, research can be described as the systematic collection and analysis of information for the advancement of knowledge.

If you look into the history of a local hospital, investigate birds visiting your garden, compare costs and benefits of insurance policies or ask people about their views on something, you are conducting research.

There are many different types of research and levels of complexity.

Research projects may involve one or more of the three main types of research activity:

  1. Empirical research: the systematic collection and analysis of empirical (original) evidence to create new information through methods such as interviews, surveys, focus groups, experiments and observation.

  2. Scholarship: the collation of pre-existing information which may yield new knowledge and insights.

  3. Knowledge transfer: the exchange, by individuals or institutions, of information gained through Empirical research or Scholarship that may also reveal further insights.

The terms ‘research’ and ‘enquiry-led learning’ are used interchangeably by U3A.

There are many opportunities for U3A members to engage in various types of research/enquiry-led learning. This page provides a brief introduction to the opportunities and sources of support: 

Enquiry-led Learning Through Interest Groups
Members of many interest groups undertake really interesting research and share their findings, mostly within their group, but sometimes more widely, and sometimes the results are produced as publications, maps, or other useful outcomes.
Click here to see some examples of Interest Groups Research


Shared Learning Projects (SLPs):
SLPs are a U3A ‘flagship’ and offer a great way to get involved in research by working on a project shared with members of 2 or more U3As or in partnership with an organisation outside U3A. Click here pdf for some examples (411 KB) .
For further information about SLPs click here:  pdf SLP Information Sheet (411 KB)


Collaboration with Universities, Research Institutes, etc.
U3As across the UK are increasingly working with their local universities, research institutes, and similar organisations to develop mutually beneficial relationships. The prime area for collaboration is research, including partnerships through Shared Learning Projects. Occasionally U3A members are able to participate as pdf research assistants (133 KB) in externally-led projects. Collaboration can also take many other forms such as lectures, workshops and study days. Click here for some examples of pdf Research with Universities (121 KB) .

External researchers, mainly from university research departments, frequently approach U3A when seeking older people as subjects of their research. Requests can arrive via many different channels – National Office, Regional Trustees, Networks, or directly to individual U3As. Click here for some examples of projects pdf External Research with U3A members as Research Subjects (166 KB) . What should you do if you receive such a request? Click here for advice on the Suggested Procedure for University Research Requests.