August 14, 2018



Research is the main function of think tanks. No matter the type of think tank, its aims, activities or business model, they all undertake some form of research.  And the quality of it underpins their legitimacy. Without good research the credibility of a think tank will crumble. In order to carry out quality research think tanks need to address many challenges: staff skills, peer review systems, planning policy relevant research agendas etc.


Short course: Doing Policy relevant research

Presenter: Andrea Ordoñez (On Think Tanks and Southern Voice)

December 2017

In the first webinar Andrea introduces the concept of policy relevant research and discusses the 7 principles of policy relevant research (to be discussed through the course). She highlights that policy relevant research is context specific and therefore think tanks need to be acutely aware of it. As think tanks aim to produce evidence that leads to change, being in tune with the context and taking advantage of the windows of opportunity that might arise will help organisations achieve impact. She presents the cycle of drafting a research agenda, and later discusses the steps involved.

The second webinar focuses on understanding policy problems, and how to plan the type of research a think tanks produces based on the types of policy problems it aims to deal with. The different types of policy problems and the roles of research in each of them are explained, as well as case studies to help clarify how to use this approach to developing policy relevant research.

The background note produced for this course explores these issues further and gives readers access to further resources.

Webinar series

Researching a murky subject: Methods to study think tanks

August- October 2015

In the first session  Approaching a murky subject: what is a think tank? Enrique Mendizabal (On Think Tanks) Jordan Tchillingirian ( Phd Student), Rosie Clayton (think tank consultant) Brendan Morton ( Public World) Marcos Gonzalez (Phd Student),  Richard Darlington (IPPR)  and Jeff Knezovich discuss what are think tanks, what are the research questions that should be asked about them, and what methods can be used to study think tanks.

The series then includes sessions on specific methods that can be used to study think tanks. Marcos Gonzales presents a session on case studies, qualitative methods and diachronic perspectives. He discusses the difficulties that are pervasive in the study of think tanks: difficult to define, have a variety of business models, are context sensitive, and continuously shifting. He then explains the value of using qualitative methods, and diachronic case studies in particular to study think tanks.

Courtney Tolmie explains how can quantitative survey analysis  ( in a mixed methods approach) be used to study think tanks. She briefly defines quantitative analysis, surveys and quantitative data, and discusses their advantages and disadvantages. She then shares some of the main methods of analysis, and then discusses a particular study she undertook using mixed methods.

Selected articles and resources