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Guide 01
Guide 01
Conducting Desk Research
Collecting and understanding what’s already known before conducting research
5 Steps
Use when intaking research questions; use before survey development; use before field research
Step 1

Choose topic & define research question

You want to define the primary research topic that you're looking to expand your understanding on. Decide if the topic is related to your users or to the product/service/feature.

Step 2

Select & assess relevant data sources

Think about both external and internal sources:

  • External → Google Scholar, Medium, podcasts, research communities, Slack groups, YouTube
  • Internal → User logs, past research reports, past research highlights, raw data from past studies

When you're looking at data sources, be honest and assess the quality of your sources. Some questions you should ask yourself to assess quality are:

  • Who is the primary audience for this work?
  • Why was this work done?
  • Who did this work and what is their relationship to the data/topic/subject?
  • When was this work done?
  • Can you see credible sources or references listed?
  • Are there any results that are contradictory across sources?

Step 3

Filter what you read & take notes

As you're finding items to read, start about putting them into one of three buckets: ignore completely, read quickly, **and read completely.

Create a spreadsheet or document to keep track of the following:

  • Date completed
  • Source (name, hyperlink, description, etc.)
  • Study or data purpose
  • Study type (qual/quant/mixed)
  • Participants (sample size, demographics, sampling techniques, etc.)
  • Method(s) used
  • Findings (high-level findings and those relevant to your research)
  • Notes (a place to keep your thoughts about each source or finding in one place)

Step 4

Review and make sense of what you’ve read

When reviewing, don't just summarize what you're reading but synthesize it! What does the data suggest? What patterns are ongoing? Where are the knowledge gaps? What do you know now?

Step 5

Share what you’ve learned (optional)

If you do want to share out your work, make it easy for stakeholders by only including 5-7 relevant insights you've learned. Make sure to include insights that come from several credible sources.

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