Good user research works with a mixture of methods to collect insights about both the bigger picture and the details. While some designers or researchers eventually specialize in particular methods, you’ll still want to be familiar with a mixture of qualitative, quantitative, behavioral, and attitudinal research methods.
Combining qualitative methods with quantitative methods can help explain why users are behaving in a particular way. Combining quantitative methods with qualitative methods can help explain the broad patterns behind user behavior. For example, interviewing users (qualitative) after a survey (quantitative) can offer an understanding of the motivations behind trends or why outliers answered differently.
It’s also important to combine attitudinal research with behavioral research for a full understanding of user behavior.
Attitudinal research methods focus on self-reported thoughts, beliefs, and needs from users, or put simply, what users say, rather than what they do. These methods include:
Behavioral research methods, on the other hand, directly observe user behavior.
Anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “What people say, what people do, and what people say they do are entirely different things.” Combining these methods helps us understand both what users believe and how they act in practice. You might consider combining diary studies or interviews (attitudinal) with field studies or observation (behavioral) to get a sense for how users report their own behavior, as opposed to what they do in practice.
Mixing research methods doesn’t just apply to collecting your research data, but also how you might analyze it. Sometimes this is referred to as triangulation, “the practice of using multiple sources of data or multiple approaches to analyzing data, to enhance the credibility of a research study.”
Think about answers to the following questions to check your understanding of mixed methods research.
A research project including both interviews and ethnography combines which types of research methods?
A research project including both a survey and focus groups combines which types of research methods?