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2. Research kit

People are asked to complete research kits prepared by the investigator in order to capture information about their lives. Tasks and activities may include diaries, timelines, question cards, cameras, mapping and drawing.

Items used for research


Used during the formative and exploratory phases. Can be used to generate design directions.


  • Decide whether users should complete it in their own time or while the investigator is present
  • Depending on the individual, some people may easily engage while others may see it as a burden


  • Can cover an extended period of time
  • Can capture information when it is not possible for the investigator to be present, or in private areas such as bedrooms and bathrooms
  • Good for capturing information about the lifestyle, personality and preferences of individual users
  • Provides a good mixture of qualitative and quantitative insights
  • Allows time for a person to reflect on an issue and give richer feedback
  • Good for creating visual data for inspiration, and will give you material that can be used as an evidence base for decisions


  • Very reliant on the motivation and commitment of the user to complete the kit. Be prepared for a low response rate
  • Badly designed or confusing kits will not be effective and produce limited results
  • Insights can only be explored further when followed with an interview
  • Time-consuming to design and create an effective kit
  • Time consuming to analyse and reveal insights from the information gathered
  • Potentially slow to gather information
  • Not suited to busy users


  1. Keep the research kit as easy and quick as possible to complete. A complex and lengthy kit risks being rejected by the user.
  2. To encourage people to accept and complete the kit, make it appealing and attractive. It can be helpful to include a small gift to say thank-you.
  3. Include an introduction and explanation of the project, and make sure that your instructions are clear and concise.
  4. Think about the type of information that you would like to capture, and tailor the activities towards getting it.
  5. Try to make the kit fun to complete. Keep writing tasks short and make it creative instead. Ask the user to fill in charts, draw or take pictures.
  6. If you can, personally explain the kit to the user. Otherwise it can be helpful to include examples or suggestions to start them off.
  7. Include an agreement form for them to sign and contact details where they can reach you should they have any questions.
  8. Provide all necessary materials in the probe: i.e., pens, paper, stickers or disposable cameras. The user should not have to source or buy anything.
  9. If the user is to complete the probe in their own time, give a firm deadline and include prepaid packaging with your address on it.
  10. Due to the detailed amount of data to be gathered a small number of users is advised. Six to 12 will be optimal for most situations.


  • Interview: interviewing the user beforehand will allow you to introduce subjects of interest and explain how to use the research kit. A follow-up interview after the kit has been completed will allow you to explore any insights further


  • Capturing a broad picture of daily lives and context, especially if research over a period of time is required
  • Providing insights into an individual’s personality and aspirations
  • Providing access to subtle or hidden issues that a person might not typically be able to articulate or demonstrate in an interview