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Module DBB03 - ID Masters Programme

Qualitative Research Methods

Instructors: Panos Markopoulos

April 28 - May 3, 2011

About the Course

Qualitative research methods have developed largely within the social sciences and recently have been applied to the field of interaction design. This application is usually combined with a mix of creativity and elements of surprise introduced in the research, but also often with a lack of the methodological knowledge needed to analyze the data collected or to put the findings into perspective.

The aim of this course is for students to familiarize with methods and processes for performing qualitative research. The skills learnt are useful for both research projects and for supporting the design process; during the course we shall highlight how one needs to adapt methods and mindset for one or the other.  This course aims to provide interaction designers with an awareness of processes for analysing non numerical data, but also related caveats and opportunities.  It aims also to provide them with a reference framework so that the numerous combinations and variations of known methods that they may apply in a particular project can be related to each other. Most of all, the objective is to break mental barriers between research and design and to show how a scientific approach to studying humans may be revealing and rewarding for interaction designers.

The topics covered include:

The students will work in teams of three and will be asked to present their work in written reports and oral presentations. (see detailed schedule).


The schedule of the module is as follows



Meetings / Lecture / Presentations


Thu Apr 28





Introduction to Qualitative Research


Exercise 1:  Reading assignment on method

In threes. Describe your own choice of qualitative data collection method. Present on video an exemplary execution of the method. e.g., 3'-6' of an interview or a talk through the process and materials created

Fri Apr 29 13:00-15:00

HG 3.21


 Introduction to Qualitative Data Analysis Exercise 2: Practice assignment on method

If appropriate, apply your choice of method for exercise 1, to create an understanding of user experiences. The proposed topic is sleep quality, but you may choose to study a particular experience that relates to your current design project for t his semester.

In case, the technique you selected for exercise 1 does not seem feasible, the fall back option for this course is to set up and execute a focus group.


Mon May 2 9:00-10:30


Presentations films for exercise 1.

Exercise 3: Extra data collection and analysis.

Analyse the data collected in exercise 2. If necessary, extend the data collection.

Present your process and your conclusions in a short presentation or a movie. (whatever you prefer and find easier)

Wed 3 15:30-17:30




Final Presentations of mini Project: Present your process, and its results including a reflection on the limitations of the approach and findings.




Reading Material

All exercises should be carried out in teams of 3.

Exercise 1

In this exercise you are expected to familiarize with a popular method for collecting qualitative data. There are two possibilities for this assignments

a) You are expected to create a short movie (could be just a slideshow) presenting the gist of the method according to the source you consulted. The short presentation is addressed to your fellow students of following generations who are not taking the course, but who could benefit from getting to know more about the method. You are supposed to convey the gist and lead them for finding out more about it. Your short presentation should describe:

b) A more research oriented alternative, is to study the impact of design representations on the design process. For this you need to familiarize with the Repertory Grid technique (see reading list). The general theme for this work is 'Changing Behaviour'; for your user study you will be requested to think of an actual application (that you have access to), in the general area of lifestyle coaching, direct marketing, sports coaching, etc. Ideally these should work on  a mobile (handheld device), but this is not necessary for our module.

Exercise 2

The purpose of this exercise is to gain experience in applying a qualitative data collection method into understand people's experiences. You should create and deliver a video illustrating the application of the method. You can work on analyzing an experience that is closely related to your own project, or you can choose to work with an 'off the shelf' topic concerning sleep.

Default (off the shelf) topic:

Apply your chosen method to understand how people experience sleep quality, factors that influence the quality of their sleep and the impact of sleep quality on their lives, oing to sleep rituals and waking up routines.

To get a short introduction on the topic of sleep quality, please consult the following source:

Exercise 3

This exercise involves qualitative data analysis using affinity diagrams. You will be requested to analyze the data you collected in exercise 2; if necessary extra iterations of data collection will have to be carried out.



Ex.1 a) A DVD including a web version of your video (flash movie) and a higher resolution, e.g., mpeg, that can be played on a common player like Windows Media Player or VLC.

b) For research team: Prepare a presentation detailing your research question, method and result, in about 20'-25'. Submit the pdf file of the presentation. Optionally, if time allows, submit a short report of the study e.g., 1000-1500 words detailing method and results. You can put supporting materials as extra files in a zip folder (and send it to me).

Ex. 2 and 3 combined: Present your process and your results in class for about 10'. Send a pdf of your slides to Panos by Wednesday 17:00.

Previous Runs of this Course

Oct 2007, Mar 2007, Spring2008, Nov 2008, Spring 2009