Develop Your Research Goals Collaboratively
As a researcher, it’s critical that you work with your stakeholders to carefully craft your research goals. Once you’ve established them, they should be the North Star that guides you as you plan, moderate, analyze, and present your research. You always need to come back to why you’re doing your research. What do you want to learn? What’s the bigger picture? What are some assumptions you may be taking for granted? What are you ultimately trying to get out of this research?
Once you answer these questions, you can craft your research strategically around these inherent goals to ensure it will have a clear, targeted impact. Without adequate focus on your goals, your research will tend to take on a life of its own and morph into an ill-formed morass. In addition to delineating your research goals up front, it can be helpful to define the expected outcomes of your research. These could be anything from developing a journey map, to better understanding users’ mental models of a feature, to making a decision about the future of a product offering. By pausing to define the desired outcomes at the beginning of your research, you can stay more focused on your goals.
For example, on one of my recent projects, the overarching goal was to increase adoption of a certain product. Exploratory research suggested there were a variety of factors preventing its adoption—such as busy practitioners who were focusing on higher-priority tasks, a general lack of awareness of the product and its value, and some product usability issues. Our stakeholders wanted to focus on the usability issues because we had the most control over them, but we weren’t sure that fixing the usability issues would address the larger awareness and adoption issues. We raised this issue, asking our stakeholders to clarify our key goals for the research—improving adoption or improving usability? Only once our team had agreed upon our main goal could I start planning appropriately targeted research.
Once you’ve collected abundant, rich data from your qualitative research sessions, you’ll need to sift through your data to identify the valuable insights that address your main goals. But don’t be tricked by fool’s gold! At first, it might be painful to disregard much of your data, but this is necessary to gain clarity. The most digestible, effective research reports are concise, clearly organized, and succinctly address the key research questions through an engaging narrative.