How To Create a Research Guide For Unstructured Research

How to create a research guide for unstructured research

Unstructured research is among the most rewarding forms of user research. It involves direct interaction between the researcher and a participant, but it differs from traditional structured research in several important ways.

First, although the person conducting the research may have some initial guiding questions or core topics to refer to during the discussion, there is no prescribed set of questions. Second, both the researcher and the participant are free to move the conversation in any direction of interest that may come up.

Both of these reasons is why unstructured research is a great tool to use in helping you uncover interesting and valuable insights. But they can also be challenging.

In this article, you'll find out how to create a research guide for unstructured research and a few tips to help your research study be successful.

Content Overview

  • Step 1: Create a New Study
  • Step 2: Create a Research Plan
  • Step 3: Create an Unstructured Research Guide
  • Step 4: Conduct Research Sessions
  • Step 5: Review Results

Step 1: Create a New Study

Navigate to the Studies page and select "Create Study" and then choose “Open Interview” to start creating a research guide for your research sessions.

  • Your new study will contain a research plan, the research guide, all your future participant sessions, and the results, as well as a place to identify, organize, and store the insights of your research study.

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Step 2: Create a Research Plan 

Capture and clarify all of the details regarding your research initiative. You can outline the study purpose or objective, how your research will be used, who will be involved in the study as well as when and where the research will take place.

Study Purpose

  • Add what you want to learn, measure, or benchmark during this study. This helps inform the overall goal of the study, guide specific topics and questions, as well as stay aligned to the overall goal.

Participants

  • Define your participant criteria, target user types, or recruitment methods. Establishing this information up front and being able to refer to it helps you and your team find the right people.

Schedule

  • List start and end dates, important milestones, or even the quantity of sessions you are targeting to complete. This information helps keep team members informed on important dates and can indicate progress towards completion.

Location

  • Identify where your study will take place. This keeps everyone involved informed on the logistics of your study and allows team members to plan accordingly.

Team Members

  • Include team members and their roles. This will help promote collaboration and keep the team informed on who is responsible for certain aspects of the study.

Step 3: Create an Unstructured Research Guide

Fill out the different sections of the research guide template. Customize the research guide template to fit your specific research needs by adding content to the following fields: 

1. Introduction - optional

Add an introduction for you and your team to use when conducting participant research sessions. It could contain items like a welcome message, an introduction script, or an outline of what the participant should expect during the session.

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2. Topics & Reference Notes

I. Topics

Add a specific subject that you might focus on when having a discussion with your participant. Your research guide could contain one main topic or have multiple topics depending on your research goals.

Example Topics:

  • Participant background
  • Work/life balance
  • Wrap up

II. Reference Notes

Add notes or bullet points as reference notes to help guide your discussion. Each topic can house its own specific reference notes that the facilitator or moderator can use during the participant research sessions.

Reference notes examples:

  • Discussion points
  • Reminders or prompts for the facilitator
  • Areas to probe for more detail
  • A specific scenario to help set up a block of potential probing questions

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3. Conclusion

Add a conclusion for you and your team to use when ending the participant research sessions. It could contain items like a thank you message, a script for a closing statement, or an outline of what the participant should expect now that the research session is over.

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Additional Notes for Creating Your Guide

Previewing the guide

If you want to get a preview of what the research guide will look like while facilitating the research session, click on the preview button at the top of the page. This will give you an idea of the flow and if there may need to be adjustments made or topics added.

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Step 4: Conduct Research Sessions

Select the “+ Session” button to start a new research session and collect data. Each session you or your team members start will give you access to the research guide, and allow you to capture individual participant information and notes for each topic while you are talking to your participants.

Make sure to take good notes during each research session. The notes you and your team members take will be the main source of data seen in the Results tab. Clear and concise notes will help you when you’re ready to identify and interpret insights, patterns, and themes during analysis.

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 There are two main ways you can use Handrail to help you conduct research sessions and collect data:

1. On Your Own

I. Enter Data Real Time

Click the “+ Session” button to start a new research session and capture the research data that will be seen in the study results.

II. Enter Data After Interview Session

Step 1: Click the “Print Guide” button to print the research guide to use a paper version of the research guide. This will allow you to have a paper copy of the research guide and take notes by hand or record audio with a separated device and enter data in later.

Step 2: Click the “+ Session” button to start a new research session to enter the information you took by hand or are transcribing from audio recorded from a separate device.

2. With Your Team

I. Enter Data Real Time

Click the “+ Session” button to start a new research session if you are the one responsible for capturing the research data that will be seen in the study results.

Once a research session has started, additional team members can join the live session to facilitate the session or capture notes, answers, and contextual information from their point of view.

II. Enter Data After Interview Session

Step 1: Click the “Print Guide” button to print the research guide to use a paper version of the research guide. This will allow you and the team to have a copy of the research guide and take notes by hand or record audio with a separated device and enter data in later.

Step 2: Click the “+ Session” button to start a new research session if you are the one responsible for capturing the research data that will be seen in the study results.

Once a new session has started, additional team members can join the session to enter in their notes, answers, and contextual information they captured.

Additional Notes for Conducting Research Sessions

Participant Information

For each session, you have the ability to gather new participant details or select a participant that has previously been entered into Handrail. Participant information that has been previously entered into Handrail can be selected by choosing “Select Existing Participant” from the Participant Information tab of your session.

Handrail automatically creates a unique identification number and assigns it to each participant. This unique ID is used internally to keep participant data separated, but it can also be used as a reference for participant data stored outside of Handrail.

Participant identification information is not required in Handrail and should only be captured by the permission of each participant.  

See Policies for more information regarding privacy and GDPR compliance.

Persona Assignment

If you have created personas, you can assign a persona to your participant during research sessions. Sessions that have personas assigned to them can be filtered in results.

Session Clock

Each session contains a session clock in the right top corner of the research guide. This clock shows the elapsed time of the session and is used as a timestamp reference for when questions are answered. This clock can be paused and reset at any time during the session.

Step 5: Review Results

Navigate to the “Results” tab to access an organized output of all the research sessions that you've completed in a single study. It will show all the personas assigned, and contain aggregated information of the notes you and your team have captured organized by the topics from the research guide.

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Notes for reviewing results:

Data Visualization

Depending on the construction of the research guide and number of team members collecting notes, Handrail automatically organizes all the research session data and generates aggregated views in different types of visualizations.

Example visualizations include:

  • Word clouds
  • Pie Charts

Data Filtering

The results filter allows you to view or remove specific sessions, personas, or topics.

Research Cards

Capture key findings, issues, opportunities, quotes, action items, or other insights in the Research Cards inside of the Results or Analysis tab within your study.

Any cards you create on the Results page are automatically exported to the Analysis tab allowing you to do more in-depth analysis like tagging, grouping, and filtering.

Analysis Tab

The Analysis tab allows you to create and edit Research Cards as well as classify and categorize cards into groups that share similar meanings or qualities.

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Summary Tab

The Summary tab is for creating an informal summary or topline report of your study findings, recommendations, and action items.

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Need more information or have questions we didn't cover here? Get in touch!

 


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