The University of Southampton

Writing REF Case Studies


How to write successful impact studies for REF based on school/university partnership working

An NCCPE analysis of 4 star REF14 impact case studies based on public engagement in general identified some key common factors. In all of these case studies the reasons behind the following were made apparent:


WHY was the engagement activity undertaken? What problem did it set out to resolve?

  • Dissemination — Maximising the reach of the research into potential communities. Increasing awareness.
  • Engagement — Creating meaningful and significant encounters with the research, tuned to the specific needs and interests of the user.
  • Involvement — Using the insights and expertise of the user to inform outputs.


WHO did you work with and why? Name groups specifically and give reasons why they have been identified.

  • Publics — General public, communities of place, communities of interest or experience etc.
  • Policy — Policy makers, regulators, funders etc.
  • Practice — Charities, business, public sector etc.


HOW did you engage with the groups you identified? Which model of public engagement was used?

  • ‘Classic’ — Working specifically to ‘reach’ a particular chosen group.
  • ‘Mediated’ — The focus is still on your chosen group but also involves some direct engagement with an intermediary organisation, for instance, to increase capacity or generate assets which can then be used by the chosen group in the longer term.
  • ‘Blended’ — Where engagement with the public is one thread in a more complex picture of engagement activity.
  • ‘Bolt-on’ — The primary focus is engaging with practitioners or policy makers but there is some public facing activity, usually to disseminate results or raise awareness.


WHAT impact was achieved?

  • Conceptual — Communicating meaning or creating meaning leading to impact on attitudes and values, knowledge and understanding or leading to enjoyment, inspiration or creativity.
  • Instrumental — Changes in policy, products or services to better reflect a public’s needs or interests, achieve economic return, improve access to resources, aid decision making. This is the easiest to evidence.
  • Capacity building — Build on or gain new skills, improve health and wellbeing, change behaviours or professional practice, facilitate collaboration or progression.


Back to Reflection