Report Reviews: Scope and Purpose


A review of reports and research relating to the goals of a leisure and recreation plan is usually one of the early steps in the planning research phase. Gaining an understanding of other reports assists a plan’s development because the findings can be used to diversify and strengthen the intellectual and research base of a plan as well as build connections with potential stakeholders from other sectors of the community.

This chapter explains the value of conducting a past research and reports review, explores the breadth of the types of material that should be considered and provides an overview of how to analyse the contents. The chapter concludes by explaining how to use the review findings and how this can help to inform the other components in the planning research phase.

The Value of a Report Review

A thorough review of past and related reports will:

  • • Ensure that the findings of past planning studies for the same organisation are evaluated and recommendations which have been overlooked or not acted on and are still relevant can be assessed and potentially carried forward to a new plan
  • • Ensure that the longer-term issues are identified, and current findings are put into a broader time context, thereby reducing the influence of short-term “fad” issues, and
  • • Encourage the inclusion of new and different ideas from other agencies, from academic and planning research or from research in other parts of the country and overseas

The review of other reports does not need to be confined to issues or topics specific to the organisation, area or topic for which leisure and recreation planning is being carried out. In fact, reports, studies, articles and books which focus on different topics may be just as useful because they generate new thinking, ideas and solutions.

The Types of Reports to Review

There is a range of different types of reports and studies that should be reviewed and evaluated as part of a leisure and recreation plan:

  • • Past or current policy documents prepared by the planning organisation can assist in establishing the philosophical framework for a leisure and recreation plan.
  • • Past planning projects by the same planning or nearby organisations might cover leisure and recreation, open space, facility feasibility, economic development, community health, physical activity, transport and urban planning issues and strategies.
  • • Academic reports and journal articles on relevant topics will often introduce a level of scholarship and more rigorous insights to a planning project.
  • • Professional studies and reports on the same or similar topics are increasingly available from web searches. Even simple Google Scholar searches can identify a wide range of valuable resources. One of the most valuable websites to review past reports and research is the Canadian National Benefits Hub (refer Chapter 1 for more details), which has a long history of collecting, collating and evaluating research into the benefits of leisure and recreation.
  • • Relevant government and community organisation research reports can contribute to a planning project.
  • • Government and non-government organisation policy statements on leisure and recreation, health, physical activity, community wellbeing, etc. can be particularly important because they may establish new provision models and directions and create funding opportunities for new provision initiatives (refer to the wider policy considerations explained in Chapter 3).
  • • International (e.g., UN, World Health Organisation), national, state/ provincial, regional and municipal statistical reports provide information and trends relating to leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services (refer Chapter 8 for details) and
  • • Newspaper and news web reports provide information that is relevant to leisure and recreation planning. Mass media often report about health issues, urban planning, sports participation and new leisure activities. Planners should access and review the complete documents and research informing these media reports.

The policy documents from the organisation preparing a plan should generally be given priority attention. Non-government organisations, private providers and investment bodies will also have a range of policies to explain their organisational vision or mission statement, values and principles, objectives and their priorities for action. These documents may provide a structural framework into which a leisure and recreation plan can be incorporated. Many larger sporting and recreation associations have similar documents. Table 6.1 provides an example of how

Table 6.1 The impact of existing policies on a leisure and recreation plan

Examples of policy/ plans

Target markets defined by the policies

Desired outcomes

Possible implications for leisure and recreation plan

Leisure and recreation

New immigrant groups.


Engagement in mainstream social and cultural activities.

Optimise opportunities for junior sport.

Multicultural leisure and recreation festivals and activities.

Provide more multi-user junior sporting venues.

Health and wellbeing

Low socioeconomic groups

Improve the physical and mental health of most vulnerable members of the community.

Leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services need to accommodate low socioeconomic groups.

Children and youth

Single-parent families

Provide opportunities for all children and youth to be involved in community activities.

Leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services need to include services to encourage single-parent children and youth to be involved.

Older adults

Isolated older adults

Include isolated older adults in community activities.

Leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services need to work with community services to include isolated older adults.


Table 6.1 (Continued)

Examples of policy/ plans

Target markets defined by the policies

Desired outcomes

Possible implications for leisure and recreation plan


All the community

All members of the community have active transport options

Leisure and recreation programs and facilities encourage active transport to all community members. Services may be provided to support community members to use active transport options



Households adopt approaches that mitigate climate change impacts

Leisure and recreation programs, facilities and services adopt systems to address issues related to climate change

to document the various policies of a planning organisation that may impact on a leisure and recreation plan. The table functions as a good overview of the potential policies that may impact on a leisure and recreation plan. It is also common to record detailed statements from each policy that could impact on a planning project (see following Report review method section for details).

Case study 6.1 provides an example of how a review of a municipality’s planning and policy documents informed the development of a leisure centres business plan and forged better connections with the municipality’s operations.



Dr John Tower

A team of consultants was working with a municipal leisure centre that provided indoor sport courts, lap swimming, learn to swim and leisure pool space, and fitness rooms for resistance training and group exercise classes. The leisure consultants were asked to review the centre's operations and develop a plan for the future. The leisure centre had been operating in administrative isolation from the municipal authority, so there was limited collaboration between the centre and the wider municipal responsibilities. One of the initial tasks was to review a range of municipal plans and policy documents to determine how the leisure centre's operations could complement the municipality’s operations.

The municipality provided over 50 reports that were deemed to potentially have an impact on the leisure centre’s operations, and the review of these identified a range of issues that the centre should consider as it planned its future. The municipal documents that contributed the most to the centre's operations were the Corporate Business Plan, Community Service Strategy, Strategic Community Plan, Public Health Plan, Multicultural Action Plan, Youth Strategy and the Review of City Engagement. It was disappointing to find that the content of these documents was not incorporated into the centre's operations. Conversely, it was also disappointing to find that the leisure centre’s capacity to address a range of wider community and health initiatives was not considered in the municipal plans and policies.

The consulting team reviewed the documents and coded the statements that had the potential to relate to the operations of the centre. The coded statements were then systematically reviewed and clustered into themes that could be used to guide the centre’s plan. The two main themes used to guide the centres plan were health and wellbeing and specific population groups.

The municipal health and wellbeing themes were related to the centre’s capacity to deliver programs and services to support a healthy lifestyle and active community. Municipal initiatives that complemented the more specific healthy lifestyle and active community goals included the development of community leaders, creating a sense of place and heritage, contributing to a thriving economy and water-wise initiatives. The potential to use the centre to address the wider municipal initiatives provided an opportunity to better align its programs and services with the municipal operations. The review of plans and policies also created a shared understanding about the capacity for leisure and recreation to contribute to the municipality’s quality of life. A good example of this was covered by the Public Health Plan. This plan identified that the municipality had high levels of obesity, high-risk levels of drinking, poor nutrition and that 60 percent of the population were not active enough. The leisure centre’s capacity to contribute to these broad public health issues became an important element of its future development.

The specific population themes were related to the municipality's capacity to address the needs of its initiatives on multicultural, youth, older adult and people with disabilities. Although the centre did get some mention in the related documents, there was no identification of its capacity to contribute to the municipality's strategic initiatives. The review of the municipality’s planning and policy documents identified similar opportunities as the health and wellbeing initiatives. Initiatives designed around accessibility for all were incorporated in the centre’s plan. The reviews also alerted other staff in the municipality and wider community to the potential to collaborate to address the needs of specific population groups and to draw these groups into programs and services at the centre.

Another positive outcome that would not have been identified without the review of the municipality's plans and policies was the centre’s adoption of better water management strategies which led to it receiving a state Waterwise Aquatic Centres Award. The state recognition of the water management approach helped to demonstrate how it was part of the municipal operations and contributing to wider community goals.

Material from other agencies is invaluable in assuring a planning project team and the wider community that the issues faced are not unique and that useful solutions have been found elsewhere. These external solutions can make a valuable input to a leisure and recreation planning project.

A rigorous review of relevant refereed journal articles can make a valuable contribution to the development of a community leisure and recreation plan. Scholarly leisure and recreation literature is often focused on individual research projects but can help a leisure and recreation planner to gain a wider perspective of the issues. Some of the general principles of a literature review include being thorough, systematic and keeping accurate records (Jones 2015). Sources of scholarly literature include “library catalogues, specialist indexes and databases, searching the internet, Google Scholar, published bibliographies, general leisure/tourism books, reference lists” and topics beyond leisure and recreation (Veal 2011, p. 156).

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