Tips and Tricks to Conduct Research in the Wild

tips and tricks to conduct research in the wild Corey and the goat


  • Write up a preamble and practice it
    • Introduce yourself, state your purpose and why you are looking for information
    • Be transparent about the purpose of your research
  • Build an outline of a discussion guide
  • Start the discussion really broad, then narrow down
    • Remember this task you are testing is a small part of someone’s day – ask about their whole day
  • Structure your questions as open ended as possible
    • Start with who, what, where, when, why
  • If you can answer the question with a yes or no – make sure you ask why as a follow up
    • Q: Have you ever used a kiosk before?
    • A: No
    • Q: Why not?
    • A: I can never figure out where to pay…
  • Dry Run your conversation
    • This will help you feel confident and you can work out a lot of kinks beforehand
    • Test the technology, pack extra batteries, have a plan B
  • Friendly professionalism is important
    • You don’t have to wear a suit but dress “friendly/professional” to give you some legitimacy and be non threatening

Approach Subjects

  • Be friendly, fearless and engaging
    • Make a connection with the person, don’t read survey questions!
    • This takes practice, start with “friendlies”, practice pressing for additional information
  • Ask the question! (don’t give permission to back out)
    • Don’t start your question with, “you don’t have to answer this, but…” rather just ask the question and if they are uncomfortable, graciously move on
  • Have your recording materials / waivers ready before you approach
    • Nothing is worse than starting to talk to someone while you are trying to find the record button

Collecting information

  • Assign responsibility ahead of time
    • Have one person designated to take notes/photos/recordings while the other asks questions
  • Keep technology as unobtrusive as possible
    • This will help respondents feel comfortable
  • Don’t forget to take pictures & small video clips
    • You’ll want this to tell the User story (good for your portfolio too!)
  • NO leading!
    • Save directed questions to the end – If you come up with a potential solution, explore that at the end so you don’t influence their perspective
  • Don’t interrupt
    • You may have a great idea or want to help verbalize but allow them time to think, don’t be intimidated by silence, that means they are thinking

Additional sources of information:

Inside My Toolkit: Road Warrior Edition by Rachel Walsh

On the Road Again: Traveling in Pairs by Rachel Walsh

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