Research, Evaluation, & Grant-writing in Outdoor Education

James Neill
Last updated:
17 Mar 2003

Background reading
Project 1: Searching for Project Adventure literature
Example of search techniques and reporting

Background reading

To prepare for this class, please read the Course Syllabus.

A basic understanding of outdoor education philosophy, history, and theory is assumed in this course.  A moderate to high level of knowledge is particularly advantageous.  It is assumed that you are familiar with:

1. Definitions of Outdoor Education

2. Purposes of Outdoor Education

3. Formats of Outdoor Education

4. History of Outdoor Education

5. Philosophy of Outdoor Education

6. Theories of Outdoor Education

If you would like more background, explore the references suggested on those pages or contact me.

Projects for this class will focus on Project Adventure research, Rippleffect program evaluation, and negotiated grant-writing projects, in that order.  Read an overview of Project Adventure research and visit the Rippleffect website to get a basic understanding of their program.

Project 1: Searching for Project Adventure literature

Working in small groups, you will have one week to conduct a search for Project Adventure literature pertaining to Project Adventure philosophy, history, theory, research, and evaluation.

Remember, in the initial phase of searching, it is preferable to be inclusive, rather than exclusive.  It is also preferable to more detailed, rather than less detailed about the content and location of sources.

Please prepare a 1-2 page written report, plus full reference lists, including urls where relevant, of the results of your search.  The written report should contain a detailed report on the search methods you used, because this will allow reviewers to determine possible gaps in your literature searching. The written report should also make some clear summative observations about the literature, e.g., what pieces of the literature appear to be the most relevant, etc.  The reference lists should be prepared in APA format and be accompanied by relevant urls or contact phone numbers, etc. for where the original source might be obtained.  You may also annotate the citations with any other useful information.

Your written report and presentation to class in Week 2 will be assessed in terms of its:

  • thoroughness and accuracy of searching

  • organization and formatting of references

  • relevant detail and annotation

  • insightful summative commentary

Literature searches need to be conducted for:

  1. Project Adventure History (via all methods)

  2. Project Adventure Theory (via all methods)

  3. Project Adventure Research (via electronic sources, www, listservs, email)

  4. Project Adventure Research (via UNH library hard copy & faculty hard copy & electronic)

  5. Project Adventure Research (via direct contact with Project Adventure)

  6. Project Adventure Therapeutic (via all methods)

Example of Search Techniques and Reporting

The following text is taken from a draft of the method section of Norm Staunton's in progress Masters thesis in which he is conducting a meta-analysis of adventure therapy outcome research literature.  It provides a good example of implementing a systematic literature search method and gives particularly useful detail and commentary about the quality and sources of the research literature and the effectiveness of the search techniques.  Thus, it can server as a helpful model for Project 1.

Search Methods

Extensive searches were made of major sources of empirically based adventure therapy research, leading to a list of several thousand references for possible inclusion in the meta-analysis. Sources were initially divided into six categories: Electronic Databases, Bibliographies, World Wide Web, Email List Servers, Commonly Known Research, and Existing Unprinted Data.  Searching occurred simultaneously within all categories between September and December, 2002.

 Electronic Databases

The electronic databases ERIC, PsychArticles, PsychInfo, Academic Search Premier, SportsDiscus, Medline, and Dissertation Abstracts International were searched using the search term “(adventure therapy OR recreation therapy OR Outward Bound OR equine therapy OR wilderness therapy) AND (research OR outcomes OR effects OR evaluation OR quantitative OR change OR recidivi*)”.  These searches resulted in  617 articles being identified as meeting the initial search criteria.  Of these 617, approximately 250 were unique sources, of which approximately 75 were considered to meet the area of interest for the meta-analysis.  By and large, the majority of these appropriate studies were listed on ERIC and Dissertation Abstracts international, with duplicate references often being found in the other databases.  It should be noted that these searches may be limited by the historical depth of the databases searched (i.e. the databases only report references back to a certain year).  The extent of these limitations is not known at this time, but will be added in here.   



The most recent and comprehensive bibliography of AT research is by Moore and Russell (2002) at the Wilderness Research Center, Idaho.  A variety of other useful bilbliographic sources were identified and consulted.

Firstly, the past contents of a number of journals which publish adventure therapy research were searched, including The Journal of Experiential Education, Therapeutic Recreation Journal, Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Leadership, and the Australian Journal of Outdoor Education.  Secondly, the reference lists of major adventure therapy research articles, particularly the literature reviews by Bandoroff (*), etc e.g. Witt & Crompton? (2002?) were searched.  Thirdly, the conference proceedings of several national and international conferences related to Adventure Therapy were searched, including the First and Second International Adventure Therapy Conference Proceedings (Itin (ed) 1997; Richards (in press)).

World Wide Web

A world wide web-based search was conducted by identifying the top Adventure Therapy related websites, and searching within the sites for applicable research.  The sites searched were (ranked in order of helpfulness in identifying relevant references):

·        OutdoorEd.com [www.OutdoorEd.com]

·        Association of Experiential Education [www.AEE.org]

·        Project Adventure [www.PA.org]

·        Indiana State University [http://www.indiana.edu/~outdoor/IOLE.htm]

·        Active Reviewing [reviewing.co.uk]

·        Christian Itin’s home page [www.geocities.com/dr_adventure]

·        Adventure Therapy Publications Resource Page  [http://www.wilderdom.com/adventuretherapy.html#bibliographies] (maintained by James Neill)

·        Wilderness Research Center? [ets.uidaho.edu/wrc/OBHRC/obhrc.htm] (maintained by Keith Russell)

·        Outdoornetwork.com [outdoornetwork.com]

·        Adventure Therapy Web [http://fdsa.gcsu.edu:6060/lgillis/AT/default.htm]

            Email List Servers

Electronic postings (see Appendix A) were distributed to five major email list servers, reaching approximately a thousand people.  The list servers selected commonly discussed topics related to adventure therapy: Outdoor Research (OUTRES); AEE; SPRENET (Social for Parks & Recreation); OUTDOOR-ED (Australian OE List); ADV-THE (Adventure Therapy List).  Additionally, the posting was sent to approximately 50 people identified as having knowledge in the area of adventure therapy or research, including personal and professional contacts.  However, the sum of all these efforts were approximately 25 responses which had either already been identified or were irrelevant.           

Commonly Known Research

Commonly known research in the area of adventure therapy was identified by the researcher and his committee members.  Much of what they identified from their own knowledge of the subject area had already been returned via the other  search methods, however an additional approximate 10 studies were identified and included.           

Existing Data

Existing data from unpublished adventure therapy research studies was sought for inclusion.  This data was first analyzed using common statistical methods, then included based on the selection criteria described below.  Have we yet got any?  If so, state/describe the data.