Semi-structured qualitative studies
HCI addresses problems of interaction design: delivering novel designs, evaluating existing designs, and understanding user needs for future designs. Qualitative methods have an essential role to play in this enterprise, particularly in understanding user needs and behaviours and evaluating situated use of technology. There are, however, a huge number of qualitative methods, often minor variants of each other, and it can seem difficult to choose (or design) an appropriate method for a particular study. The focus of this chapter is on semi-structured qualitative studies, which occupy a space between ethnography and surveys, typically involving observations, interviews and similar methods for data gathering, and methods for analysis based on systematic coding of data. This chapter is pragmatic, focusing on principles for designing, conducting and reporting on a qualitative study and conversely, as a reader, assessing a study. The starting premise is that all studies have a purpose, and that methods need to address the purpose, taking into account practical considerations. The chapter closes with a checklist of questions to consider when designing and reporting studies.