Applied Research Methods with Hidden, Marginal and Excluded Populations
(in person course)

  15-19 August 2022 – One week, full time course (35 h)

  9:30-13:00 and 14:00-17:30 (class times)

Focussing on Hard-to-Reach populations, the course provides an introduction to research methods in conducting research, both qualitative and quantitative, on marginal, hidden and excluded population such as children, migrants, refugees and displaced people, sex workers, homeless, victims of conflicts or trafficking, HIV/AIDS, and drug users.

Aimed to promote action-oriented research, the course introduces the main theories and research approaches on exclusion and marginalization using different frameworks and techniques. It addresses the dangers associate with the lack of systematic use of solid research methodology, ethics, data collection and analysis in the formulation and evaluation of policies and program.

The Applied Research course is planned to run in its traditional face/to/face format this year. The course will take place during morning and afternoon. Students are expected to be available full time. Active implementation of methods will be concentrated during the morning session; afternoon will be more focused on online training.

To maintain as much of the spirit of sharing between practitioner and academic researchers, we will include activities to facilitate interaction and collaboration among participants. These will include research presentations from students as well as joint simulation and real-life exercises.

In case of any travel or mobility limitation, we will be able to offer this course in a live, hybrid training format, combining online training and real-life application of all the presented research methods at the location of students.

The course aims to enable participants to undertake empirical research with marginal and hidden populations, and seeks to encourage participants to develop methodological strategies for the collection and analysis of such data.

The course will provide tools to address key issues such as the lack of known sampling frame, the difficulties in reaching the target group; the concepts of impact, attribution and contribution; and the political dimension of research findings. The course explores topics such as basic and advanced estimation and sampling techniques; participatory research; evidence-based policy versus policy-based evidence; innovation, crowdsourcing and the use of technology; the art of combining qualitative and quantitative methods; and ethical considerations arising when conducting research with hidden and marginalized populations. It covers quantitative techniques such as adaptive cluster sampling, capture and recapture, RDS (Respondent Driven Sampling), network analysis, as well as participatory research methods.

Basic knowledge in research methods and design. An interest in the topic and some practical research experience, or an acquaintance with applied research, would be helpful.

Take the online course on Research Ethics prior the beginning of the course.

This intensive full time course is structured in morning and afternoon sessions. Participants will be encouraged to present their past/ongoing/future work to be used and discussed during the course. Combining both taught and practical sessions, the main emphasis of the course is on acquiring practical skills in doing research.

A copy of all the articles in the bibliography will be provided during the course.

The following is a provisional structure of the course and it will be adapted according to participants’ needs and capacity.


1.1 – Hard to reach populations:

  • concepts, definitions, data collection implications

1.2 – Applied research and basic research:

  • linkages, opposition, challenges and opportunities

1.3 – Evidence-Based Policy vs Policy-Based Evidence

1.4 – How to research hard-to-reach populations: objectives, strategies, expectations

Research methods: Impact drawing surveys and questionnaires design (introduction), on-line (web) data collection; stakeholders analysis.


2.1 – The quest of assessing the magnitude: sampling and estimating hard-to-reach populations

  • Guesstimate and scientific estimation; random and purposive sampling;
  • Cluster sampling;
  • Adaptive cluster sampling;
  • Time location sampling;
  • Capture and recapture;
  • Respondent Driven Sampling RDS (intro);
  • Social network analysis applied to hard-to-reach populations (introduction).

2.2 – Case study: The Politics of Numbers

  • Cases: Estimating refugee and displaced population;
  • Estimating civilian casualties in wars: the struggle between statistics and politics.

3.1 – Participatory research

  • Participatory research methods;
  • Rapid assessment;
  • KAP (Knowledge Attitude and Practice);
  • Positive deviance.

Applied methods for participatory research: e.g timeline, chapati (Venn) diagrams; transect walk; wealth ranking; seasonal calendar; community mapping.

4.1 – Innovation and the use of technology: SMS, crowd sourcing and mapping

  • Using SMS and mobile phones for research and data collection.
  • Crowdsourcing and mapping (introduction).

4.2 – Ethical consideration in doing research with marginal population


5.1 – Combining research methods

Students will use all the techniques presented during the course in a real case.


The fee does not include accommodation, food or travel costs, but all essential material for the course.

If you need to cancel your course participation, please notify us as soon as possible at Note that cancellations notified after 1 stJuly 2022, as well as failure to attend, will not be entitled to any form of refund. Prior to 1st July all cancellations will incur £50 administration fee and the difference will be refunded to you in the form of your original payment.

Andrea Rossi is the former Director of the Harvard Measurement and Human Rights Programme at Harvard Kennedy School of Government (USA) and currently works as Senior Advisor on Social Policy and Economic Analysis for the United Nations in East Asia. Previously he worked in Mozambique, Nepal, New York and a research coordinator at the UNICEF Innocenti Research Center. He is an economist with a particular focus on development and applied research. He coordinated research projects in Africa, Latin America, Asia and Europe, as well as developing specific research methodologies on children’s issues. He has previously worked for the International Labour Organization in the East Africa Area Office, Tanzania where he was in charge of research and statistics. His main areas of interest are applied research methodology; combining qualitative and quantitative methods; applied micro econometrics; and participatory approaches. He has conducted research on human rights, child labour and child trafficking, prostitution, homeless people, illegal migrants, refugees and displaced people. He has been teaching Research Methods with Hidden ad Marginal Populations for more than 15  years at the Essex School of Social Sciences Data Analysis,  at the World Bank International Development Evaluation Training (IPDET), at the University of Milan, and with the United Nations.


Accommodation is available from Oxford Colleges and also from Oxford area hotels and hostels. Participants are responsible for arranging this individually. A number of accommodation options including rooms in University of Oxford colleges are listed at the following links:

It is highly recommended that students book their accommodation as early as possible since College accommodation is in high demand during the summer period. Please also note that travel costs are not covered by the tuition fee. As with accommodation, participants have to make travel arrangements individually.

Apply for this course

This course is currently fully booked and we can now only accept a limited number of academic applications. If you wish to be placed on a waiting list for the course please contact Melanie Sawers at

If you need to cancel your course participation, please notify us as soon as possible at Note that cancellations notified after 1 stJuly 2022, as well as failure to attend, will not be entitled to any form of refund. Prior to 1st July all cancellations will incur £50 administration fee and the difference will be refunded to you in the form of your original payment.


For queries related to the event, please contact Melanie Sawers at