Join Andy Schwanbeck for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing the right research tools, part of Foundations of Design Research.
- In the previous chapter, we discussed a variety of research methods. We looked at how research methods differ and in what context they work best. Research methods rely upon a variety of tools for collecting data and in this chapter, we're gonna focus on those tools. But before we begin, I'd like to suggest that you review two documents in our Exercise Files, the Glossary, to review our terminology and definitions and the Design Methods Chart. This will help to explain how all of the research methods we've talked about work together and where research tools fit into the mix.
You should know there are many different research tools out there for you to use and there are entire books that exist with no other purpose than to introduce you to the many different tools that are out there. Some are great and some can be confusing. Since we spend a lot of time putting these books to use, we decided to provide a list of our absolute favorites for you. These are the books that we find easy to use and work with and also particularly helpful in the content they deliver. You can find this list and more in our Resources section. Throughout this chapter, we'll share a basic set of tools that we find valuable in almost any project.
Understanding how to choose the right tools can be a difficult task, even for an experienced researcher. Let's look at an example and consider how we might pick the right tools to get what we're looking for. We want to find out how many people in your local town use public transportation on their way to work and why they choose to. Okay, let's break this down further and consider some key words in the statement. First, how many. What this tells us is that we're looking for a measurable result. This is Quantitative Research. How many people use public transportation tells us another important point.
We need to ask an appropriate amount of people in order to provide an accurate answer. Since we're dealing with a large area, we might look for an average of 100 responses. So we need a quantitative research tool that can collect data from a large amount of people. How about a survey? In the second part of this scenario, we want to understand why people use public transportation to get to work. Why means that this case deals with subjective data, people's preferences and attitudes. So we're talking about Qualitative Research. We need to talk to some people and allow them to explain to us why they use public transportation.
How about interviews? We might also get into a little ethnography and use observational note-taking to observe people during the bus or train ride. We could learn some interesting things about their ride that they might not tell us through an interview. Here are some basic questions to ask yourself at the beginning of any research process to help you determine which methods and tools to use. What kind of information are you looking for? Quantitative or Qualitative? How will you verify the accuracy of your data? How much time do you have to learn the information you're looking for? Remember, keep your budget and your overall deadlines in mind.
What resources do you have available? Are you working with a team that can help support you in completing your research? Or are you working alone? In the upcoming movies, we'll look closer at research tools, highlighting what they are, how they can be applied to a given problem, and when they're most appropriate to use during the design research process. As you begin to practice these tools and become more familiar with them, choosing the right one will also become much easier.
- Using research to add value and credibility to design work
- Understanding the different types of research
- Choosing research tools
- Creating a research plan
- Presenting research
- Using research to begin the design process