Patricia Reiners

Patricia Reiners

Choosing the Right Research Method


Are you unsure of which method your research needs to follow?

As someone involved with multiple research projects in different capacities, I can testify that a user-centered approach is essential when conducting any research. And that’s precisely why I’ve decided to share my step-by-step guide to choosing the right research method so that you can select the most suitable technique for your project.

Why It’s Important to Choose the Right Research Method?

Choosing the right research method is important because you obviously can’t get the right insights unless you use the right tools. So, until and unless you use the most appropriate research methods, you will not be able to conduct thorough research or yield the best results. In fact, identifying the right method might even be more important than the actual research because, after all, how can you expect to find something when you don’t even know what you’re looking for?

1. Define Your Research Objectives

Choosing the right research method is critical, but where do you start?

Well, the first step is to define your goals, objectives, and research questions. So, start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • What questions do I need to be answered?
  • What do I want to get out of the research?
  • What are my goals and objectives?
  • Which phase of the design process am I currently in?

All this will obviously help you formulate a general research question(s) that you can use as a starting point for your research, and of course, it will become more specific as you proceed further with the analysis.

2. What Methods Are Available for Research?

Once you know what you need, the next step is finding a method to help you find exactly that. You need data, and you need to find the right way to collect that data efficiently. Remember, unless you use the right method, you won’t be able to get accurate results.

Overall, there are three main parameters to consider when choosing research methods:

Qualitative or Quantitative

Qualitative research serves to answer ‘what’ questions, while quantitative research answers the ‘whys.’ Depending on what type of answers you’re looking for and whether your research involves a lot of numbers, you will have to choose between qualitative and quantitative. Though, of course, your research can be a combination of both as well, depending on your research goals.

Studies that are qualitative in nature generate data about behaviors or attitudes based on observing them directly. These methods are better suited for answering questions about why or how to fix a problem. In quantitative studies, the data about the behavior or attitudes are gathered indirectly, through a measurement and answer how many and how much types of  questions.

The Phase of the Research Project 

As you start your research, the question you seek to answer becomes more and more specific. So, think of the Double Diamond Design Process and which stage of the process your research is targeting, and then pick a research method that works well based on that. 

Attitudinal or Behavioral

The next thing to consider is whether you want to know how people use a certain product, i.e., their behavior, or their opinion towards a certain product, i.e., their attitude. This will also significantly alter the final outcomes of your research, so make sure you choose wisely.

This distinction can be summed up by contrasting “what people say” versus “what people do” (very often the two are quite different).

Between these two extremes lie the two most popular methods we use: usability studies and field studies. They utilize a mixture of self-reported and behavioral data. 

3. Choosing the right method

Now is the time to choose the right method. Most methods crossover different buckets like they are attitudinal and Qualitative. What might be really helpful are those graphs (source. Nelson Norman group) that guide you.  

Each dimension provides a way to distinguish among studies in terms of the questions they answer and the purposes they are most suited for. The methods placed in the middle of the quantitative–qualitative axis can be used to gather both qualitative and quantitative data. (Source https://www.nngroup.com/articles/which-ux-research-methods/)

Another great resources is this graph  

What’s the Takeaway?

Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, you will be able to tell which research method will be useful to help you reach that goal. It doesn’t have to be a single method, though. It may be a combination of either of these methods, but it should always be user-centric to ensure that you get the most accurate insights as per your research objectives.

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