Research Methods

Inform staff undertake regular 'field visits' to the religious movements and groups we may receive enquiries about, relevant interfaith groups, and groups that may hold a critical position to the movements on our database. Inform staff also interview current and former members of alternative and minority religious and/or spiritual movements. This qualitative first-hand research provides invaluable personal understanding of the beliefs, practices, and understandings of those currently or formerly involved with the movements. As much as possible, Inform also collects quantitative information about the size and distribution of the groups on its database. 
 
Inform has a policy of fostering direct contact with movements. This is in order to obtain information from the movements themselves (as one of several sources, Inform's research does not rely solely or even primarily upon information supplied to us by the movements); and to give the movements the opportunity to respond to statements made about them.
 
Inform also has a policy of having direct contact with critics and former members of movements who offer their own perspective on the beliefs and behaviours of the movements on our database.
 
Inform also collects official documents, such as court proceedings and/or parliamentary discussions, as well as media reports and other published material.
 
Inform also consults the research, both published and unpublished, of our academic colleagues and has an extensive library of literature relating to alternative and minority religious and/or spiritual movements. These colleagues form an important part of Inform's network.
 
One of the ways in which Inform can keep abreast of new developments in this field is through new details given to us by enquirers who have questions about a new or local situation within a particular movement and ring Inform to ask for background or further information. Because information can travel both ways, Inform takes its confidentiality policies very seriously. For more information on this point, see Inform Policy