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Conduct the Research

Before the Session

Make sure you are well prepared for each session.

Remember to bring the:

Test any technology (video, microphone, internet connection) and recording devices.

You should also be mentally prepared before each session.

  • The participant is the expert in their own experience. Observe and listen to them so as to understand their experience
  • Check your assumptions and internal biases
  • The insights of the participants are facts as they believe them to be. There are no wrong answers.
  • Approach the participant ready to hear their story and their perspective
  • Be mentally present and focused in the moment

Start the Session

  • Introduce yourselves. Participants may want to spend some time getting to know you before they open up to you.
  • Share the purpose of the session and confirm with the participant they understand. Let them know they can ask questions if they are confused or don’t understand what you are asking
  • For remote sessions, social interaction can feel different in online settings, especially if doing research with a group. Acknowledge this upfront and come up with “ground rules” for making sure everyone’s voice is heard
  • Review and sign the consent form together
  • Give them the stipend and fill out the stipend receipt, if applicable
  • Ask if they have any remaining questions before you begin.
  • Let the participant know you are starting the audio or screen capture recording, if using
  • Begin the session

Moderator Tips

  • Be silent if the participant seems to be thinking or mulling something over. Allow them time to think
  • Get comfortable with long pauses
  • Always be mindful of the participant’s comfort level
  • Pull back when necessary and go in deeper when possible
  • Remember, smile and make eye contact
  • For remote design research, time spent in front of a screen can be more tiring for participants than in person sessions. Plan breaks and/or shorter sessions to improve participant engagement

Record the Session


With informed consent, you may audio record the session. Use your government issued phone or another approved device.


For in person sessions, the moderator should not have a laptop in front of them for notes. This can create a barrier between yourself and the participant. Have notes printed off and make any personal notes with pen and paper.

The notetaker should use their laptop to take notes verbatim. This saves time during analysis and avoids assumptions and biases later on if you need to fill in gaps of information or speculate what the participants were saying.

In circumstances where using a laptop is not appropriate, hand-written notes are okay.

When conducting usability testing, a laptop and screen-recording software will be required.

Photos & Videos

If you have photo and video consent, you can record objects, environments or situations.

You cannot record a person’s face in photos or videos for design research.

Ending the Session

Be respectful of your participant’s time

  • End the session at the time promised
  • Stop the audio or screen recording device, if using
  • Save your notes
  • Thank the participant for their time
  • Make sure they have your contact information if they have any questions at a later date.

Debrief After the Session

The research team should debrief after each session to review what you just heard. Capturing this information when it’s fresh in your mind will help analysis later on in the project. Try writing down in bullet points some of the key learnings from the session. This information can be shared with the whole project team to give a high level summary of the research.

For research that deals with emotionally heavy topics, debriefing after a session can help you as researchers process what you’ve heard.

De-Identify Your Notes

You must de-identify your notes so that the participant’s personal information is not associated with the experiences and feedback provided in the study. In simple terms, if strangers read through the notes, they should not be able to identify who the participant was.

You should use a file naming system that does not connect the participant to their de-identified responses. Doing this will decrease the risk of associating personal information to a research participant.

For example, 02_13_ChildCareWorker.doc

Store the Information

Recordings (for example, audio recordings and notes) from design research sessions are considered records and should be handled like other ministry records.

You must store the

Please consult with your records manager for best practice.