Participant Segments & Screening

Skill theme: 
Interview Planning & Execution
Interview Planning & Execution

To conduct any type of interview, you learn from people who can help illuminate desired types of insight. A good Study Plan indicates participant interaction criteria and behaviors of interest. We must define clearly, ahead of time, which participants to recruit to ensure a reliable and representative source of data. Customer Advisory Council, Design Sprint, and other “non-study” research efforts require the same care.

* * *

The challenge

The strength and validity of everything that follows depends on the sample of participants you work with. Convenience samples biased by nature, and hard to reach populations are expensive to work with; a lack of rigor means wasted money. It takes care to balance the strictness of recruit criteria with the likelihood of finding relevant participants. Teams unfamiliar with the recruiting process may not realize, until it’s too late, that there is a mismatch between what they need to find and who they are speaking with.

This often occurs with a focus on demographics, which don’t ensure that participants will represent the types of behaviors and experiences you need to learn about.

The approach

Consider what behaviors and experiences you need to learn about, and the criteria that will help you select participants that satisfy those conditions. These are often different from easily a

Therefore, to reduce bias and ensure reliable signal, define your criteria for participation up front. Set targets that will ensure a balanced sample, and recruit as best you can to observe the appropriate range of behaviors. Use open-ended questions in screeners to understand a participant’s point of view and suitability for the project. Always test screeners before launch to check for understandability and effectiveness in targeting the right people.

Re-use criteria from prior studies where appropriate, and always work closely with the team to understand the boundaries of what’s required and what’s optional. If you work with a 3rd party vendor, ask for their input or expertise in the space you’re recruiting.

* * *

With a clearly defined set of participants, use Participant Recruiting & Coordination. Remember to take care of participants' personally identifiable data with Well-Managed Data, include the information about your studied population as a part of Effective Reporting.

Last updated:
Apr 26, 2020 19:18


Study planning chapter from Design for the Digital Age

Check for ref from Jan's field study handbook

Workshop Data:

Data from our 2019 workshops - 486 research practitioners voting on their top three useful skills / top three desired skills.
ResearchOps community