Good habits preparing for research
by Emma Peters, UX Consultant

Good habits preparing for research

No matter how many research sessions you facilitate you are always bound to feel a pang of apprehension the night before. In my five years of running moderated one-to-one research I have come to refine and develop my own ways in which I approach research facilitation. This list is broader than your typical Research Ops tasks e.g. managing recruitment, having a script, setting up Zoom sessions etc., these are just good habits and practices that I do when I get myself into facilitator mode. This allows me to work at my best with minimal stress before I conduct a session.


My routine starts the day/night before research, the first thing I will do is check whichever device we are using is up to date. I have personally experienced the dreaded ‘blue screen of death’ causing my computer to come to a grinding halt and consequently the research session. I have learnt my lesson and always ensure my laptop is optimised and updated sufficiently.


Research days can be lengthy especially when running several, hour-long sessions. This often results in rushed breaks and a scramble to grab a drink or biscuit. Over the course of many months I wanted to break this habit and have started preparing any food or drinks before the day of research. This can be down to having lunch prepared or to having pre-filled cups of water in the fridge. I have also started to ensure that right from the start of the project there is at least a 45-minute break for lunch.


Speaking of time, research sessions are time sensitive and every minute counts with a respondent. I decided early on that I needed to be able to gauge the time at a moment’s notice so made a tiny investment into a small analogue clock. Whilst some researchers may be okay to see the time displayed on the computer screen, visually the analogue clock works best for me. I can easily judge how much time I have left in session before needing to move on. This is either packed in my bag or positioned on my desk ready for the day ahead.


On the morning of research, I check I have all the latest comms from my team and recruiter. As a standard and important part of the process we collect consent from the respondent ahead of the research. One of the little practical things I do is get my scripts in order and add the time, date, and a small tick-box to the top of corner of each front page. This tick in a box is to visually remind me that the respondent is happy and has provided consent to take part in the research session. It’s surprising how much a simple tick in a box can help you.


Sometimes a research session may go awry but most of the time I have found that if I mitigate enough potential challenges, I set myself up to be as prepared as possible, then the research days feel so much smoother. For each project we outline potential risks and then address them through mitigation and contingency ideas. Often these risks are typical across each project, mostly concerning recruitment but some can be project specific. By thoroughly thinking through each project in this way, I can avoid disaster or a least minimise its impact.


One final note to remember, we can only prepare so much but by following a good set of practices, you can tackle even the most complex of research. I would always recommend to anyone looking to facilitate research to form these kinds of habits early on. A sense of routine and familiarity can ground you when you are in the midst of a busy project, especially before running research sessions.

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UX Consultant Emma Peters

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