Each interview session contains a range of experiences and more data than you can possible capture in full. This occurs in any of our live data collection activities: User Interview, Exploratory Research, Field Interview, Concept Testing, Usability Test, and Information Architecture Study. We evaluate the data and condense our understanding after each with a session debrief.
You experience, through research, so much more than the hard evidence will ever convey. Video misses the mood, it's a cinematic slice of what's really happening. Still images are illustrative but they can't tell the whole story. Notes and transcripts are dead words on the page or screen. And audio misses the picture entirely.
The richness of interpretation fades quickly when separated from the context of experience (research). You must assess the reliability of what you’ve observed, and capture fresh interpretation before you and your team lose sight of the context.
Take time to focus on the breadth of experience in the session—both to pause and capture the life of the experience more carefully, and to keep a reflective eye on the performance of our methods and approach. It is easy to debrief as a standard operating procedure, it is also easy to let it slide, causing real disconnect when the session data is revisited later. Every session deserves some form of debrief and consolidation as soon as possible after the fact.
Therefore, always save time to regroup and consolidate understanding after each session. Set expectations with the research team and any stakeholders who join that they will actively participate in discussing and breaking down the session afterwards. Review the evidence uncovered, its implication on prior findings, new provocations, open questions raised, and necessary adjustments to method and approach.
This idea of debrief and consolidation can also scale a level higher. You can debrief across the phase of a project that was itself a set of sessions and their specific debrief. You can debrief as projects shift locations, or over a set of sessions where results came back unexpectedly. It is a flexible time to make sense of what you’ve seen so far; good in many scopes, always applicable after a research session.