Date: 3rd Sep, 2023
Author: Manthan Patil,
Junior, Troy High School, Michigan
As a Design to Lead (referred to as DTL henceforth) member, you have the chance to work on projects that make a positive difference in your communities. You may care about a social cause, like education, health, environment, or human rights. But how do you figure out what problems need to be solved, and what solutions would work best?
That’s where primary research comes in. Primary research is a way of finding out things by yourself, using data that no one else has collected. It lets you get firsthand information and insights that can help you define the problem, come up with ideas, test solutions, and measure results.
Primary research is a crucial step in DTL, as it helps you to apply the principles and methods of human-centered design to your projects. Human-centered design is an approach to problem solving and innovation that puts people at the center of everything. It helps you to create solutions that are desirable for the users or beneficiaries, viable for the context, and feasible for the implementation.
What is primary research and why is it important?
Primary research is any kind of research that you do yourself, using data that is new and original. For example, you can do primary research by:
- Asking questions or giving surveys to people who have the problem or who can benefit from the solution
- Watching or joining in the activities or situations related to the problem or solution
- Trying out different solutions and getting feedback from potential users or beneficiaries
Primary research is important because it helps you:
- Understand what your target beneficiaries or communities really need, want, feel, and face
- Find out the main challenges or opportunities that need to be tackled
- Come up with creative and practical solutions that meet those needs and wants
- Test and improve your solutions based on feedback and learning
- Tell others about your solutions in a convincing way
Primary research also helps you to develop empathy, which is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. Empathy is essential for creating social impact, as it helps you to connect with your beneficiaries or communities, and to design solutions that are meaningful and respectful for them.
What are the types and methods of primary research?
Primary research can be either qualitative or quantitative. Qualitative research is about exploring and understanding what people mean, think, and experience. Quantitative research is about measuring and analyzing how many, how much, or how often.
Some of the common types and methods of primary research are:
- Surveys and Questionnaires: Gathering information from many individuals through questions to understand their demographics, preferences, thoughts, actions, and emotions. This can be done through online forms, phone calls, mail, or in-person interactions.
- Interviews and Focus Groups: Engaging in conversations with individuals or small groups knowledgeable about the subject. These methods delve deeper into their perspectives, motivations, challenges, and expectations. They can be conducted face-to-face, over the phone, via video calls, or through chat.
- Observational Studies: Observing and recording people's behaviors, statements, and emotions in their natural environments. This helps understand how individuals interact with their surroundings, products, services, or processes. Observations can be passive, participatory, or immersive (ethnographic).
Primary research is a key part of the DTL process, as it helps you to test your assumptions and learn from your users or beneficiaries. By doing primary research, you can avoid wasting time and resources on solutions that don’t work or don’t matter.
How can you conduct primary research for your projects?
Primary research can be a fun and rewarding experience for you as a DTL member who wants to create social impact in your communities. However, it also requires careful planning, doing, and analyzing. Here are some steps that can help you conduct primary research for your projects:
- Define Your Goal and Question: Figure out what you want to discover through your research. Nail down the specific question you're aiming to answer. For instance, you might want to uncover challenges faced by local students or teachers' expectations for a new learning tool.
- Choose Research Type and Method: Based on your goal, decide on the best research approach. What type of research suits your question? Pick a method to gather data. For example, go for a survey or interviews with students and teachers, or observe their behavior in the classroom.
- Design Your Tool or Guide: Craft a tool that fits your method. If it's a survey, create clear, relevant questions. For interviews, prepare open-ended questions. Tailor your guide to your approach.
- Find and Invite Participants: Identify who you want data from. Reach out to them and invite them into your research. Ensure your participant count is sufficient for reliable results. Get permissions if needed.
- Collect Data: Gather data while ensuring participants understand your research, agree to take part, and know why it's happening. Record and store data securely. Explain your project, get consent, and use tools for recording.
- Analyze Data: Make sense of your gathered data. Organize, clean, and categorize it. Spot patterns, trends, and insights. Validate your findings. Software and comparing with existing info can be helpful.
- Report Results: Share your findings. Summarize clearly, explaining meanings and limitations. Use results to improve solutions. Write a report, create graphs, or give presentations to communicate effectively.
By following these steps, you can do primary research that can help you make a positive difference in your communities. By conducting primary research, you can test your assumptions and learn from your users or beneficiaries. You can also find out if there are any existing solutions that have failed or succeeded in solving the same problem. This can help you avoid wasting time and resources on solutions that don’t work or don’t matter. By doing primary research, you can focus on finding a solution that can actually have a positive impact.
Primary research is a key part of the DTL process, as it helps you to apply the principles and methods of human-centered design to your projects. Human-centered design is an approach to problem-solving and innovation that puts people at the center of everything. It helps you to create solutions that are desirable for the users or beneficiaries, viable for the context, and feasible for the implementation.
To learn more about Primary Research, you can visit these websites:
What is Primary Research? - Purdue OWL® - Purdue University
Primary Research: What It Is, Purpose & Methods + Examples