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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 – eg The Bronze Age in the West Midlands.

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 normally organised by:

  • Geographical areas (e.g. the South West Regional Research Framework).
  • Periods (eg the Mesolithic).
  • Themes (eg Roman pottery).

There are a large number of Research Frameworks in use – this table provides a comprehensive list and includes details on what they cover and where to find them.  

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.

Review of Research Frameworks

A recent review of Research Frameworks was carried out in 2013/14.

This was to evaluate the use, value and impact of Research Frameworks on the sector. It also sets out a number of recommendations for their future development.

The report is available to download below:

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

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Photograph of Dan Miles
Dan Miles

Research Resources Officer

Capacity Building Team

Research Group