Once you’ve chosen the methods you want to use for your user research, you can begin preparing and executing your research. The first step in the process is always to write a research plan. If you’re working with a team, this ensures everyone is on the same page. If you’re working solo, it gives you a document to return to and adds intentionality to the research process.

A research plan should cover:

Why are you embarking on this research?

Research goal:
What are you hoping to uncover with this research?

Research question(s):
What question or questions will help you find answers that help you achieve your research goal?

Research method(s) and protocols:
What research method or methods will you use? How will you specifically execute them?

For example, if you’re conducting interviews, consider how many interviews you’d like to conduct, whether you’ll conduct them in-person or remotely, the target duration of the interviews, and how you’ll structure them. For a survey, you might consider how many participants you’d like to include, what survey platform you’ll be using, and how long the survey will run. You may also want to include plans for how you will analyze your results.

Target participants:
Who would you ideally like to talk to or include in your research?

  • Do you have existing customers you can reach out to? Is it better if you speak with people unfamiliar with your product? Or a mix of both?
  • What demographics are you hoping to reach?
  • Is there anywhere that they gather online or offline that you can recruit them?

In many cases, you will create a participant screener, a short survey or to qualify participants.

Recruitment strategies:
Where will you seek out participants? For example, you might consider using an existing customer list or reaching out in online communities. Consider whether you will offer any compensation or incentives to participants. Be upfront with participants about time and effort required and how they will be compensated.

Timeline and due dates:
How long will each stage of the research take and when do you expect the project to be completed? A realistic timeline and scope will help you set appropriate expectations and plan your work.

Any ethical considerations:
How will you protect your participants and what can you realistically promise to them?

For sensitive topics, you may want to take participant privacy into special consideration. Consider informed consent, and let participants know ahead of participation what risks the research may entail and how their contributions will be used.

Research materials to be created:
Think about what research, recruitment, and reporting collateral your team will need to create. This could include any informed consent forms or explanatory materials, interview scripts, survey questions, or anything else you might want to create in advance.

It can be useful to pre-write e-mail communication and plan for what communication will look like from start to finish, to ensure quick follow-ups and consistency across participants.


Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of creating a research plan.

What step should you take after creating your research materials and before rolling them out to external study participants?

Check Answer
Conduct a pilot test of your research materials.

What kind of survey would you use to identify qualified participants for research?

Check Answer
A participant screener.

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