This paper discusses the second stage of the Citizenship Information research project, funded by the British Library Research and Innovation Centre: a national survey, by personal doorstep interview and using the random walk sample method, of the citizenship information needs of almost 900 members of the UK public. The paper provides a critical evaluation of all aspects of the methodology. It discusses: the design and testing of the interview schedule; the sampling methodology employed; the process, and associated difficulties, of recruiting and training interviewers; and the subsequent success rate of the random walk method, together with the problems encountered by interviewers. It also explains why the researchers found it necessary to devise a unique set of guidelines on the random walk method. When compared with national figures, the random walk method reached greater proportions of women, the elderly and retired, those running a home, and those in the lower social classes. The paper argues that, as these are groups that may be deemed to face social exclusion through a lack of access to information, then the survey results are particularly revealing and significant.
MARCELLA, R. and BAXTER, G. 2001. A random walk around Britain: a critical assessment of the random walk sample as a method of collecting data on the public's citizenship information needs. New review of information behaviour research, 1(1): proceedings of the 3rd International conference on research in information needs, seeking and use in different contexts (ISIC III), 16-18 August 2000, Gothenburg, Sweden, pages 87-104.