Audience Research - What is audience research?

What is audience research?

Audience Research, also known as visitor studies, evaluation or market research, is a discipline of museology that seeks to uncover information about visitors to cultural institutions, such as demographics, behaviour, satisfaction, leisure habits and learning outcomes. Audience research has a long history of practice in museums, and there is a large body of literature and methodologies developed for use in a wide range of contexts. This paper, Evaluation, Research and Communities of Practice: Program Evaluation in Museums outlines the process of audience research in museums.

The following is a starter reading list for audience research:

  • Argyrous, G. (1996). Statistics for Social Research. South Yarra: Macmillan Education Australia Pty Ltd.
  • Cavanagh, B. (2001). Evaluating museum education programs. Museum Methods Sheet 7.3.Canberra: Museums Australia Inc.
  • de Vaus, D. (1991). Surveys in Social Research (3rd ed.). London: UCL Press.
  • Diamond, J. (1999). Practical Evaluation Guide: tools for museums and other informal educational settings. Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press.
  • Dierking, L. & Pollock, W. (1998). Questioning Assumptions: An Introduction to Front-end Studies in Museums. Washington: Association of Science-Technology Centres.
  • Ferguson, L. (2001). An Introduction to Audience Research. Museum Methods Sheet 7.1. Canberra: Museums Australia Inc. Available online at
  • Fink, A. (1995). How to Sample in Surveys (Vol. 6). California: Sage.
  • Fink, A. (1995). How to Analyse Survey Data (Vol. 8). California: Sage.
  • Francis, G. (1999). Introduction to SPSS for Windows (2nd ed.). Sydney: Prentice Hall.
  • Frazer, L., & Lawley, M. (2000). Questionnaire design & administration. Brisbane: John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd.
  • Kelly, L. (2001). Focus groups. Museum Methods Sheet 7.4. Canberra: Museums Australia Inc.
  • Krueger, R. (1988). Focus Groups: A Practical Guide for Applied Research. California: Sage.
  • Loomis, R. (1987). Museum Visitor Evaluation: New Tool for Management. Nashville: American Association for State and Local History.
  • McManus, P. (1991). Towards Understanding the Needs of Museum Visitors. In Lord, G & Lord, B.(Eds.). The Manual of Museum Planning. London: HMSO.
  • Meehan, C. (2001). Designing questionnaires. Museum Methods Sheet 7.5. Canberra: Museums Australia Inc.
  • Scott, C. (2001). Exhibition evaluation for museums and galleries. Museum Methods Sheet 7.2. Canberra: Museums Australia Inc.

Lynda Kelly
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