Organizing Qualitative Data With Synthesis Frameworks
Once you’re familiar with your raw data, you can start to arrange them.
To do this, Timothy recommends using synthesis frameworks: structured analysis methods that help you examine your raw data to find common themes. Some researchers have used them before without knowing what theyâre called others in Timothyâs workshops ask, âWhere has this been all my life?â.
Synthesis frameworks offer structure by putting your qualitative research in a visual context. And by using a combination of them to organize your data sets, you can walk away with different learnings.
In qualitative data analysis, there are many synthesis frameworks you can use. Timothy gave the following three analysis methods:
Transcription Is Essential To Qualitative Research Analysis
Qualitative data is often elusive to researchers. Transcripts allow you to capture original, nuanced responses from your respondents. You get their response naturally using their own wordsnot a summarized version in your notes.
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Gather Knowledge Through User Interviews
One great way to gather your users feedback is by performing user interviews. The user interviews are one of the most widely used user research methods and can give you an in-depth understanding of the problems your users are facing.
User interviews are often conducted during the exploration phase because the data you collect can help you to identify your personas and scenariosdepending on how you choose to analyze the data. The user interviews are often combined with other research methods, such as usability tests or surveys, as a way to support the findings you gather.
User interviews often refer to semi-structured interviews which means that the interviewer follows a structure but that is still flexible enough to follow leads in the conversation and to change the order of the topics to be discussed.
Take user interviews as an opportunity to immerse yourself in your users’ lives and connect with their history, culture, beliefs, and experiences. Use this knowledge to work on possible solutions on how to tackle problems.
Defining And Naming Themes
During phase 5, you name and describe each of the themes you identified in the previous steps. Theme names should be descriptive and engaging. In your description of the theme, you dont just describe what the theme is about, but you also describe what is interesting about the theme and why its interesting. In Braun and Clarkes words, you define the essence that each theme is about. As you describe the theme, you identify which story the theme tells and how this story relates to other themes as well as to your overall research question. At this point in the analysis, you should find yourself able to tell a coherent story about the theme, perhaps with some subthemes. It should be possible for you to define what your theme is clearly. Moreover, if you find that the theme is too diverse or complex for you to tell a coherent story, you might need to go back to phase 4 and rework your themes.
Ask Follow Up Questions
While you should ask the same set of base questions with every user, you should also ask follow up questions if they can help clarify what a user has said and if they can give you additional insight.
If it makes a lot of sense to immediately ask a follow-up question, I will. Other times, a user will say something that makes me think of another question I want to ask, but I dont want to interrupt the user interview script.
Ill write down what I want to ask and then ask it later on when it makes more sense.
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Make Note Of The Questions That Dont Work
Some questions are duds. They may not elicit much information. Other questions just confuse people. Occasionally you may have a questions that causes people to react negatively.
Even if you commit to not swapping out a user interview question during a round of user interviewing, you should make note of which of your questions dont work so that you can make sure not to use them in future user research.
How To Conduct And Analyze Semi
A semi-structured interview is one of the most effective tools for systematically gathering qualitative and quantitative data. This is a method which allows you to ask predetermined questions, determined, perhaps, by the theoretical framework or theory of change underpinning the project, or by your research hypothesis. It is also one which keeps questions open-ended, to gain a comprehensive view of surrounding information.
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How To Do A Thematic Analysis Of User Interviews
You have been in the field talking to users and you now find yourself with a massive amount of audio, notes, video, pictures, and interesting impressions. All that information can be overwhelming, and its difficult to know where to start to make sense of all the data. Here, we will teach you how to go from information chaos to patterns and themes that represent the most interesting aspects of your data and which you can use as the foundation for personas, user scenarios and design decisions.
No matter which type of study you are doing and for what purpose, the most important thing in your analysis is that you respect the data and try to represent your interview as honestly as possible. When you share your results with others, you should be transparent about everything in your research process, from how you recruited participants to how you performed the analysis. This will make it easier for people to trust in the validity of your results. People who dont agree with your conclusion might be critical of your research results, but if you know that you have done everything possible to represent your participants and your research process honestly, you should have no problem defending your results.
Summary: 7 Essentials To Insightful User Interviews
1. Plan: go deep, do a research plan and an interview guide, take into account the time and the resources as well
2. Provide a calm atmosphere for the interview: even offering tea and coffee can do the trick. A relaxed user is an open user
3. Prepare and be confident as a researcher: know the interview guide, but know the subject to be able to be flexible and go around it
4. Prepare and inform the respondent: do the UX for your own interview, pave the path to an open conversation
5. Take notes and collect impressions: actions sometimes speak louder than words
6. Embrace the specifics of qualitative data
7. Practice and be patient: be willing to improve your interview skills, even if it takes time
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Why Do User Interviews
Interviews give insights into what users think about a site, an application, a product, or a process. They can point out what site content is memorable, what people feel is important on the site, and what ideas for improvement they may have. They can be done in a variety of situations:
- before you have a design, to inform personas, journey maps, feature ideas, workflow ideas
- to enrich a contextual inquiry study by supplementing observation with descriptions of tools, processes, bottlenecks, and how users perceive them
- at the end of a usability test, to collect verbal responses related to observed behaviors
Synthesize Findings And Make Recommendations
The synthesis of your findings and the recommendations you provide are more valuable than the raw materials you have created. Most people are not interested in reading your notes or listening to a recording.
What people are ultimately paying you for is strong synthesis of all of the data you collected and actionable recommendations. This synthesis should come with actionable recommendations. This is the first step to converting user research to change.
It used to be that people made 100-page reports of findings. No one wants to read those. Dont make one.
What I have found that works the best is a deck of findings that has a lot of bullets and annotated screenshots/photos. I may also provide a written executive summary memo of my findings for people who want to read over something relatively quickly and get the lay of the land.
We also create synthesized empathy maps and user scenarios from all of our rounds of user research. These are another high-level, digestible artifact that non-user research experts can understand and utilize.
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How To Analyze Interview Transcripts In Qualitative Research
Qualitative research is a critical part of any successful study. Unlike quantitative data, a qualitative analysis adds color to academic and business reports. Interview transcripts are among the best qualitative analysis resources availablebut you need the right methods to use them successfully.
As weve observed, interviews are crucial to getting less measurable data from direct sources. They allow researchers to provide relatable stories and perspectives, and even quote important contributors directly. Lots of qualitative data from interviews allows authors to avoid embellishment and maintain the integrity of their content as well.
As a researcher, you need to make the most of recorded interviews. Interview transcripts allow you to use the best qualitative analysis methods. Plus, you can focus only on tasks that add value to your research effort.
Treat The Interview As A Conversation If Youre Nervous
If youre worried about the semi-formal format of the interview, you can return to a friendly tone and aim to have a conversation with them. In this conversation, its likely that the answers you need will still come out.
Still not convinced of the power of merging user research and data science to gain rich insights and fuel product/service decisions? Check out this case study.
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Figure Out What You Want To Know
Users are people. And people have a lot of different aspects to them. What you want to know is the overlap between that persons interests & tasks to be done and the business goals of the organisation you work for. This means you need to figure out the business goals of your project before you do an interview.
The interesting part for the team youre in is where the outcome of the user interview analysis overlaps with whats technically possible. You can leave the mapping of the technical limitations until after the analysis of the user interviews. Yes, you should do more than one =).
What Is Ux Research
UX researchis the study of user interaction to obtain insights that improve the design process. With UX research, you can create products and solutions that cater to a users needs. The primary goal of UX research is to build products for the end-user based on real data not what you think the user wants.
For example, United Airlinesincreased online ticketing by 200%and doubled the number of daily sessions by conducting UX research to better understand their audience.
UX researchers employ various research methods to gather data and uncover design opportunities. Most researchers start theUX research processwith qualitative measures to determine the users needs and motivations. However, they also usequantitative methodologiesto test their findings.
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Before The Research Begins
Great analysis starts before research even begins. This happens by creating well-defined goals for the project, research, and product. Creating clear goals allows researchers to collect data in predefined themes to answer questions about how to meet those goals. This also allows them to create a set of tags to assign to notes and data as they conduct their research, speeding up analysis dramatically.
Before any research session begins, craft clear goals and questions that need to be answered by the research. Then brainstorm a list of tags or descriptors for each goal that will help identify notes and data that align to the goals of the research.
Schedule Your User Interviews
If youve successfully found your respondents, keep in mind that success does not only depend on the actual interview. The way you first contact interviewees will affect them. Your tone and style will impact their relaxation levels once you actually start talking about your questions.
Depending on the organization of a user experience research project, different people may contact and schedule the interviews from those conducting them. In such a case, make sure within the team that the respondents join the interview well informed.
Also, when asking them to participate, you will inevitably tell them something about the topic and the goals of the interview. For one, it stands as an ethical requirement.
Always state the aims of the project and summarize participants rights so they can give informed consent to participate. It makes it easier for you, too. If respondents have an idea of what will happen during the interview, it reduces the risk of scheduling an unsuccessful or cancelled interview.
Still, the possibility remains for cancelled or less insightful interviews. Therefore, we at UX Studio always calculate with more interviews than absolutely necessary for our UX research goal.
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Make Interviewees Feel Comfortable
When the users arrive and after offering a coffee or glass of water we at UX Studio usually guide them to the interview room while making a few warm-up remarks or asking some casual questions. Meeting the respondents at their location of choice really makes them more comfortable!
Here, you can also see why remote interviews can get more complicated. You lose all these options to create a relaxing atmosphere.
Once you have everything set and your respondent has relaxed enough, quickly introduce the research youre working on, thank them for the interview, and summarize participants rights and the terms of participation. After this point, signing an informed consent form and discussing the details of a possible recording follows.
Use A Discussion Guide During Interviews
A discussion guide is a set of questions that you wish to ask your users about to meet your learning objectives. They can take many forms, ranging from a tight script that you can follow closely to a rough outline for the conversation.
Their main purpose is to make sure youre able to keep the conversation on track and gather all the information you need. So make sure you have one at hand during your interviews.
Keep your discussion guides organized by the topics or tasks that youre investigating. This makes it easier to refer back to them during the interviews and gives an initial structure to the data that you gather.
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Quick Method: Group Segments Of Text Then Assign A Code
Rather than coming up with a code when you highlight text, you cut up and cluster all the similar highlighted segments . The groupings are then given a code. If youre doing the clustering digitally, you might pull coded sections into a new document or a visual collaboration platform.
In the pictures below, the grouping was done manually. Transcripts were cut up, fixed to stickies, and moved around the board until they fell into natural topic groups. The researcher then assigned a pink sticky with a descriptive code to the grouping.
The highlighted sections were physically cut up with scissors and taped to stickies.The participant number or the data type was written on the sticky . This practice facilitates an easy return to the full data, as well as comparisons across participants and data sources. Stickies allow the segments of text to be easily moved around a board or wall.The highlighted segments were clustered by the text topic and given a descriptive code.
At the end of this step, you should have data grouped by topics and codes for each topic.
Lets look at an example. I interviewed 3 people about their experience of cooking at home. In these interviews, participants talked about how they chose to cook certain things and not others. They talked about specific challenges they faced while cooking and about solutions for some of these challenges.
Give The User Something To React To Alongside Your Interview Questions
If we ask you what you want for dinner tonight, you might not really know. But if we give you three things to eat, we might get a better indication of what your tastes are. Thats how we approach usability testing. We try to get prototypes in front of our users as quickly as possible so we can gauge their reactions and find out which direction is going to make them the most effective.
It doesnt matter if the prototype is pen-and-paper or a fully interactive design. Our team builds in code, Sketch, Photoshop, InVision all of them make prototypes that accomplish the goal of being believable enough to test. We just want to show users a version of what we think they need based on what we know, then ask them as many interview questions as possible so we can understand why they like or do not like certain things.
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Avoid Leading Closed Or Vague Questions
Ideally, your questions should elicit rich, unbiased answers from the interviewee.
- Leading questions prime the user by inadvertently suggesting a response. For example, a question like Why do you enjoy using the Acme product so much? suggests that the user uses the product and enjoys using it. A better question might be Why do you use the Acme product?
- Closed questions elicit yes or no answers. For example, if an interviewer asks, So, you use the Acme product each morning? then the participant could sincerely respond with just a, yes, and not elaborate. A better question might be Can you tell me about how you use Acme?
A caveat: while closed questions are less likely to elicit wordy answers, they are easier for users than open-ended questions. Sometimes, you can precede an open-ended question with a closed one to ease the user into a topic or protect users from feeling stupid when they dont remember an event.
- Do you remember when that happened?
- When was it?
Vague, ambiguous questions are difficult to understand and often confuse participants. They can also make people feel uncomfortable or guilty for not understanding what you mean. To figure out if a question is too vague, consider informally testing it with random people to see if they understand what you mean.