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Mark Pearl


Aims of this chapter

  • Discuss how to plan and run a successful data gathering program
  • Enable you to plan and run an interview
  • Enable you to design a simple questionnaire
  • Enable you to plan and execute an observation


Four Key Issues

  1. Setting Goals – outline what the objective of the exercise is
  2. The relationship with participants – get participants to give permission to have their data used if necessary
  3. Triangulation – Use more than one data gathering technique to tackle a goal
  4. Pilot Studies – Run a pilot study before doing the main study to iron out bugs, do not use the same people in the pilot study in the main study as they now have an expectation

Data Recording

Various methods and tools to use to assist in recording data including…

  • Notes plus camera
  • Audio plus camera
  • Video


  • Unstructured Interviews – Open ended conversational
  • Structured Interviews – Predetermined questions are asked with available answers i.e. which of the following best describes…
  • Semi-Structured Interviews – Combination of Unstructured and Semi-Structured
  • Focus Groups – Facilitator with group members

Planning and conducting an interview

Involves developing the set of questions or topics to be covered. Developing interview questions requires determining if the questions will be open or closed. The following are suggestions…

  • Compound sentences can be confusing, so split them into two separate questions
  • Interviewers may not understand jargon or complex language
  • Try and keep questions neutral

Running an interview

  • Have an introduction – interviewer introduces himself
  • Warm-up session – easy non-threatening questions
  • Main session – questions presented in logical order
  • Cool off period – few easy questions
  • Closing session – end the interview


Designing questionnaires with structure include…

  • Think about ordering of questions. Impact can be effected by order
  • Consider whether you need different versions of questionnaires for different populations
  • Provide clear instructions on how to complete the questionnaire
  • Find a balance between keeping whitespace and the questionnaire compact

Question and response format…

  • Checkboxes and ranges
  • Rating scales

Administering questionnaires…

2 Important issues when administering questionnaires…

  1. Make sure you reach a representative sample of the audience
  2. Make sure you get a reasonable response rate


Direct observation in the field

Structuring frameworks for observation in the field

  • The person
  • The place
  • The thing

Degree of Participation

Depends on the type of study. You can get different types of observers including

  • Passive Observer – does not take part, merely observers
  • Participant Observer – participates and interacts with those being observed


Is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group.

See wiki for more info

Choosing and combining techniques

Direct observation in controlled environments

This usually occurs in a usability laboratory. Same basic data recording techniques are used.

The think aloud technique

In a controlled environment the interviewer can afford to be more intrusive. One way is to say what they are thinking as it is happening.

Indirect observation

  • Diaries
  • Interaction Logs
Posted on Friday, November 4, 2011 2:59 PM UNISA INF 3720 | Back to top

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