Research Methods

This section of the tool will help you evaluate whether the right methods have been chosen for a particular project or investment. It presents the most common qualitative research methods, organized into five broad categories, with a short explanation for each method and when it is best to use.

Verbal research methods or interviews

The overall objective of these methods is to gain information and insights by talking to research participants. This can range from fully structured interviews that follow a strict schedule to very open-ended conversations.

Verbal research methods or interviews

  • Structured interviews
  • Semi-structured interviews
  • Open-ended interviews
  • Key informant interviews
  • Life histories, also known as oral histories

Group interviews

  • Focus groups, also known as focus groups discussion or FGD
  • Expert panels
  • World café
  • Unfocus groups

Modified interviews

  • Walk-along interviews, also known as go-along interviews
  • Walk-through interviews
  • Object-oriented interviews
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Participatory research methods

Ethnography is a branch of anthropology and the systematic study of individual cultures. Ethnography explores cultural phenomena from the point of view of the subject of the study.

Participant observation

  • Cyberethnography, also known as Online, Digital or Virtual Ethnography
  • Observation Only, also known as Field Observation or Shadowing

Participatory workshops

  • Farmer Field Schools
  • Design Thinking Co-Creation Workshops


  • Body mapping
  • Life mapping, also known as life course mapping
  • Journey mapping
  • Community mapping
  • Concept or idea mapping, also known as visual mapping
  • Empathy mapping

Participatory photography and video-making

  • Participatory photography
  • Participatory video-making
  • Mobile visual methods
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Reflective research methods

Design research is research specifically undertaken to support the strategic design and development of products, services, and programs.

  • Fieldnote diaries, also known as journals
  • Participant diaries, also known as diary studies or self-documentation studies
  • Participant packs, also known as cultural probes
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Gamified research methods

Behavioral research is a way to examine and understand individual and social behavior through measurement and interpretation.

  • Scenarios
  • Role play
  • Personas
  • Card sorting
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Data analysis methods

Implementation research is the systematic study of methods that support the application of research findings and other evidence-based knowledge into policy and practice.

Data analysis

  • Coding
  • Content analysis
  • Discourse analysis
  • Visual analysis
  • Social network analysis, also known as SNA

Data analysis

  • Insights generation
  • User profiles
  • Segmentation
  • Experience mapping
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