Tag Archives: Research

Qualitative Research Mini-Barcamp

qualitativeBarcamp_sheetwriting-1A colleague and I organized a small barcamp-like meetup for qualitative researchers at the Bauhaus University Weimar. We met on the 21st of May 2015at the neudeli, the Bauhaus University’s startup incubator (»Gründerwerkstatt«).

We held several sessions run by participants. I’ll give a brief summary here.

We started of with theory and philosophy of qualitative research. Actually our planning session kinda transitioned into it, so we used the opportunity and made this our first session after the planning.

The main topic was doing the ›right‹ research. There are several slightly different approaches of how you can show that you do your research ›right‹ and naturally different views of what ›right‹ means anyway. We brought in our approaches, discussed bringing in (or keeping out) personal views and interpretations, what one should state about oneself and one’s context and about the virtues of  describing messy realities or showing possible, plausible interpretations of experiences.

We talked about »defending the qualitative approach« too. The most common scenario is defending it against critique of quantitative researchers. However, the case we discussed was defending it against deconstructivist, postmodern critique (so that’s for those who already crafted the perfect defence against critique from quantitative researchers and feel bored now). After this rather abstract session we moved to a practical topic every researcher touches nowadays: Software. And literature (for some reason, I don’t know what the connection was)

So, here a list:

Software for Data Analysis

  • MaxQDA (around 100€ for students) and has a nice interface
  • AtlasTi (around 100€ for two Years)
  • RQDA though we thought that is might not be the right choice for big projects and/or not for the ones who are neither into computers nor R. But: RQDA is Open Source.

Transcripts can be be made with f4 or f5 or the Open Source EasyTranscript

For cutting videos participants suggested iMovie on Mac or MovieMaker (freeware) for  Windows.

For editing audio recordings – like cutting, or enhancing the quality – the Open Source Tool Audacity was used by participants

Adding notes and highlights to PDFs is possible via PDF X Change Viewer (Freeware). It includes a very useful ›OCR‹ Function to recognize text in PDFs which are created from scans (OCR-ing that scanned PDFs enables you to mark the text there too and to find the PDFs via your Computers full text search)

managing bibliographies and references: Citavi, Endnote, the Freeware Litlink  and the Open Source Zotero which integrates nicely into Firefox and Office.

Collecting Ideas  was done via the Open Source Zettelkasten, Open Source Freemind, the    Freemium Webservice Evernote or Microsoft OneNote. However, Pen and Paper might be  preferable anyway for creative work.

LibreOffice, OpenOffice (both Open Source) or MS Office were popular tools for writing the  thesis. Some might try the Open Source classic LaTex as well, though this is probably to  much learning as long as your work does not contain math (which looks pretty in LaTex.

The mentioned books were:

  • Successful Qualitative Research by Brown and Clarke
  • The Discovery of Grounded Theory, the classic by Glaser and Strauss (who afterwards started their own interpretations of this approach)
  • I should have mentioned "Shane the Lone Ethnographer" by Galman – a comic on ethnography.
  • Pandora’s Hope by Bruno Latour

After jointly collecting so many tools, we did a writing workshop (with pen and paper!). We first created a mind map of topics and than wrote for 10 minutes – without ever stopping, even if the writing seems stupid or whatever: just continue to write. After the 10 minutes we marked parts we liked about our own text, read them to each other and got feedback:
1) What they liked,
2) What they like to know more about,
3) Which color the text would have.

Thanks to everybody who participated for making this a very enjoyable event!



Designers attitudes towards steps in the design process

⚠ Exploratory Research ahead

This is a little study that explores Designer’s attitudes to steps in the design process

The idea was based on the observation that some steps are part of almost any design process while some are left out. So I wanted some data on this. In addition there were two additional hypothesis: Designs steps which are less fun are done less often and design steps in which the designer does not feel in control are less fun.

Gathering data

From books and some interviews I created a list of design steps, and created a survey. For each of the design steps I asked

  • how frequently the participant does the step in design (ranging from »never« to »in every project«)
  • how much fun the activities for this step in the design process are for the participant.
  • how much control the participant feels to have in this step of the design process.

These attributes were rated on a 7-step scale. Higher values indicated more experienced fun, more perceived control and doing the activity more often. In a little text before the survey questions, I explained what I understood as »(not) having fun« and »(not) being in control«.



Perceived control, fun and frequency per design step. Click to enlarge.


To find out how core activities of design fare compared to research activities, three Designers coded the steps as being: research, design-itself, something else¹. I created the average of the steps which were coded »design« or »research« by all three designers.


Design-itself activities are done more often, seem more controllable and more fun to do. Some ideas in relation to this are using methods for research that feel more productive and controllable. Co-Design and research-by-mapping (mapping emotions and social life, describing workflows) may be ways to do this.

There is a significant correlation between control, fun and frequency – so if designers felt they are in control they had (in average) more fun and if they had more fun, they did the step more frequently.

Since the research was not experimental, we can not draw conclusions about causation here. This would need further experiments, though drawing from interviews I made with graphic designers and participants of a human centered design class, it seems to be a promising direction.

One interpretation that can be drawn is this: In design-itself-tasks, the designer feel in control of the situation and that the outcome is mainly depended on ones own actions, while in research tasks the outcome is not sure (you can ensure a scientifically sound experiment or the like, but the outcome is open).


As I said the research was not experimental and explored only correlations. In addition there are some shortcomings:

  • The data is based on answers of only 20 people about half being graphic designs, half being product designers.
  • The order of the questions was not randomized
  • The questions were ordered by the design process steps, and asked for the three attributes of a design task (Control, Fun, Frequency)  in each step. If someone would choose the same rating in each of these subsequent questions  (out of boredom or to complete quicker) there would be a seemingly perfect correlation.

When I continue the research I would thus

  • Get a bigger sample
  • get a more diverse sample
  • Order by attributes as main category first, than ask for the attribute for each step. the order should be randomized.

If you are interested in doing research on the topic too, I’d be greatly interested in cooperating.

¹ »something else« was often described as »communication«.