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Qualitative Research Methods for Interaction Design

USI Programme,  Module E 2-1, Panos Markopoulos

June 2007

The aim of this 40hrs module is for students to familiarize with qualitative research techniques as these can be used for supporting interaction design (sometimes the term Design Research is used to describe these techniques)..

The module will give an overview of Qualitative Research Methods as they have been adapted for Design Research. It will motivate qualitative research in general and sensitize students to the different priorities of designers and scientists. The format of the module will include an introduction lecture to Design Research Methods, presentations and discussion of research papers by students, and a mini-project involving setting up and executing Focus Groups. A simple technique for analyzing qualitative data will be introduced and applied in the context of the mini-project.

The mini project, builds on the results of the video prototyping course. The aim of the project is to understand how to support people to manage multiple threads of communication activities using information technology. You will be asked to set-up and run a focus group with the purpose of a) triangulating the results from the contextual video interviews with a different method b) evaluate the different concepts captured in the video prototypes.




Lecture / Presentations

Deadlines/Presentations by students


Fri 22/6



Introduction to qualitative research


Assignment 1: Focus group plan

Assignment 2: Reading Assignment


Mon 25/6 9:30-11:00      
Tue 26/6 9:30-10:45



Analyzing qualitative data

Presentations focus group plan (assignment 1) Assignment 3: Focus group and analysis of all qualitative data collected in these two weeks
Wed 27/6


Thu 28/6 9:30-12:00   Assignment 2 presentations  

Fri  39/6



Combined Presentations: Video Prototype and Focus Group study

Focus group report: includes  focus group plan, notes from the execution of the focus group, results and evaluation of the appropriateness of the method for the problem at hand to be included in the DVD of the team (see video prototyping course page)


Assignment 1: Focus Group Plan
Prepare in a document and present in a short presentation (10' max) your focus group plan. This should include: schedule, topics of discussion, roles of people involved, plan for recording and analyzing data, instructions as they will be presented and consent forms.

You can consult any source you want on focus groups. A practical text is Chapter 9 from Kuniawsky's book.


Assignment 2: Reading Assignment on Methods

This is a team assignment for two . Please prepare a 10' presentation to describe a method for collecting or analyzing qualitative data.

Your presentation should describe

  • Step by step guide of what to do.
  • How does data collected feed into design?
  • Do’s and don’t suggested by the authors? (where the authors are silent about an issue or it does not apply to the paper, please indicate this)
  • Rationale of the method
  • Relation to other methods
  • Known applications.
Assignment 3: Focus Group
Run the focus group as planned. Analyze the data of the focus group and of the contextual interviews you did the week before.

Collect and analyze data, and deliver: a report that includes the focus group plan, the results, the analysis of all qualitative data (interviews and questionnaires).



The recommended textbook is M. Kuniavsky's book: Observing the User Experience.

For the methods assignment, here is an initial list of papers to choose from.