Window frames in a historic building decorated using lead paint.
Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. © Historic England
Kirby Hall, Northamptonshire. © Historic England

Research Frameworks

What are Research Frameworks?

How do we assess if sites or areas are important or significant? What research questions can we ask? How do we go about co-ordinating this research?

Research Frameworks help us identify what is important or significant and provide research questions and objectives to help co-ordinate and focus our research effort.

They are created by bringing together people across the sector to create a shared framework, including:

  • Local authorities
  • Contractors
  • Academics and
  • Voluntary groups

Research Frameworks provide us with:

  1. An up to date overview of current understanding – ie “what we currently know”. This is usually created by synthesising information from lots of different sources, eg Historic Environment Records (HERs), reports from planning-led investigations, academic and society journals. This provides an overview of a specific period, place or theme.
  2. A Research Agenda – identifying gaps in our knowledge and providing questions to fill these gaps. This is an agreed set of research areas and questions that is used to help co-ordinate research – they help focus what the sector wants to know more about. Research agendas can help to coordinate academic and community research as well as provide a research focus for planning-led projects.
  3. Strategies to carry out this research. These strategies provide the framework within which the research can be carried out – promoting potential ways forward and partnerships.

What do they cover?

They can cover archaeology, the built environment, landscapes and maritime heritage.

They are organised in a number of ways:

  • Geographical areas (e.g. South West Regional Research Framework or overarching National Research Agenda)
  • Periods (eg the Mesolithic)
  • Themes (eg Roman pottery)
  • World Heritage Sites (eg Derwent Valley World Heritage Site)

Why should I use a Research Framework?

Research Frameworks play an important role in providing an overview of current understanding, coordinating research and informing decision making – particularly planning related. They have many different uses:

  1. Local authority staff:
    • As a reference to provide context for assessing the significance of heritage assets and proposed sites.
    • To provide a research focus for planning-led investigations.
  2. Contractors:
    • As a reference resource to help write desk-based assessments and environmental impact assessments.
    • Referred to when writing Written Schemes of Investigation (WSIs) in response to project briefs.
  3. Academics:
    • To scope out research projects and provide direction for postgraduate research.
    • To assess the ‘impact’ of their research, eg in relation to Research Excellence Framework (REF) impact assessments.
  4. Local Societies:
    • To improve their knowledge and scope out research projects.
    • To establish research priorities linking into the regional and national picture.

Frameworks included on the Network

We continue to add historical frameworks, newly developed regional, and wider period or geographical frameworks. As these are launched they will be added to the front page of the site.

They are presented on the website in 5 categories; National (usually England, Scotland and Wales), Regional and Local, Specialist (period or thematic), World Heritage Site, and International (Frameworks developed in other nations).

United Kingdom Research Frameworks are also presented on the website as a clickable map.

Integration into OASIS

With the newest roll out of OASIS, comes the ability to live tag your research results with the relevant individual research agenda questions identified in WSIs and reports.

This means that reporting in OASIS links directly to the relevant Regional Research Frameworks, and allows regional research working groups to incorporate the findings into future frameworks.

For more information on these projects, please contact Dan Miles.

If you have any questions about the support and collaboration we offer to others involved in researching the historic environment, please email us at:

Dan Miles

Research Resources Officer
  • Department

    Capacity Building Team, Research Group
  • Address

    EC4R 2YA