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Module DBB03 - ID Masters Programme

Qualitative Research Methods

Instructor: Panos Markopoulos

November 17-21, 2014

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:

·         What is qualitative research?

·         Why should you do it?

·         An overview of different ways to collect qualitative data

·         Cultural Probes and Context Mapping Methods

·         Repertory Grids

·         Affinity diagrams: a simple but robust way to analyze qualitative data

·         Open and Closed Coding

·         Quality criteria for qualitative research

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

Mon 17/11


HG 3.21

Introduction to Qualitative Research, explanation of Mini-Project, Research Design

Tue 18/11



Data collection methods

Wed 19/11


HG 4.95


Discussion Interviwes

Introduction to Qualitative Data Analysis

Reporting qualitative research

Fri 21/11


HG 3.21

Final Presentations of mini Project:

Present your process, and its results including a reflection on the limitations of the approach and findings. 

Deadline for reports

Video instruction material (from ID students to ID students)

1.      Introduction to cultural probes video by Roland Corps and  Dirk van Erve (2011)based on Gaver, Dunne and Pacenti (1999) and related articles. 

2.      Technology Probes. Video by Bastiaan Ekeler and Nik Sturkenboom (2011), based on paper by Hutchinson et al (2005).

3.      Diary Studies, by Marco van Beers and Kim van Iersel (2011).

4.      Repertory Grids, by Jelle Dekker, Michael Geertshuis, Robbert van Vliet (2011), based on the paper by Hassenzahl and Rainer Wessler (2000).

Reading Material

·         Hassenzahl, M. and Wessler, R., Capturing design space from a user perspective: The Repertory Grid Technique revisited. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 2000. 12(3-4): p. 441-459.

·         Brown, B.A.T., Sellen, A.J. and O’Hara, K.P. (2000). A Diary Study of Information Capture in Working Life. Proceedings of ACM CHI’00 Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, 438-445

·         Carter, S., Mankoff, J., When Participants Do the Capturing: The Role of Media in Diary Studies, Proceedings ACM CHI 2005.

·         L. Palen and M. Salzman. Voice-mail diary studies for naturalistic data capture under mobile conditions. In ACM CSCW ’02, pages 87–95, 2002.

Mini project

Participants will be split in 4 teams. Each team will take on one of the topics below. You will be expected to define your research question, make a research plan, carry out data collection and analysis, and report these in a suitable format.

Topic 1. Non verbal affective communication in mobile media applications for teens. A few years back, it was emoticons. But habits are changing, and new habits emerge: e.g., snapchats of teens pulling faces, handdrawn scribbles, etc. It would be interesting to see how teens use modern mobile social media for affective communication and how they experience these

Topic 2. Triaging between different media for teans. Teens are at the forefront of adopting new apps for social communication. They use each for different purpose: the aim is to understand the strategies they use for each media: what goes on FB? On whatsapp? On snapchat?

Topic 3. The aim is to understand the user experience of self-monitoring for health. There are all these applications that help you self monitor eating, smoking, walking, sleeping. They are usual abandoned after initial use. We want to understand the user experience of sustained use of thes technologies. We can examine separately copliance aspects and privacy aspects.

Topic 4. The aim is to understand how design students find and share design knowledge, in the domain of wearable technology. How do they find and communicate examples of earlier solutions? how do they inquire about and communicate about skills? What physical and digital resources help them expand their abilities?


The deliverable will be

1.      A written report

2.      A presentation during the last session

3.      Reflection

4.      A zip file containing all transcribed data

5.      Physical data should be delivered in completed forms etc.

Previous Runs of this Course

Oct 2007, Mar 2007, Spring2008, Nov 2008, Spring 2009, Spring 2010, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Autumn 2012 November 2013 spring, November 2013 fall