Research Plan checklist and Template

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Summary:

These are the parts of a UX research project plan. Depending on the scope of your research, you may not use all of the following list. However, a well-rounded research plan will provide clear expectations and answers who, what, when, how and why of the upcoming research project. A well-written research plan includes crucial information for stakeholders and other cross-functional partners.

Another note, if you take time to craft a strong research plan at the beginning of the research process, it becomes your source of truth. Your team will refer to it repeatedly throughout a project, especially when creating subsequent documentation (i.e. session guides, presentations, etc.) and adjusting or redefining the process.

Research Plan Checklist

Project Background (why)
Objective (what & how)
Hypotheses (assumptions)
Research Questions (behavior)
Participant Criteria (who)
Deliverables (what)
Timeline (when)
Success Metrics (data)
Methods (how)
Constraints (scope)
Synthesize (analysis goals)

Now that you know the key parts of a UX research plan, here is a basic plan template you can use and iterate for your own projects:

Research Plan Template

Background

Why does this research project matter? What is its purpose and value? This section sets the tone for the rest of the plan. Take a moment to describe the issue your research will address. What are users experiencing that needs to be solved through your research? Think of the big picture: how are they impacted by the issue? and how might taking time to research solutions improve their experience? Include any metrics or data that drive the point.

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Research Objective

What is the goal of your research project? What are you hoping to learn by conducting this research? Who are your users? How will your learnings and recommendations impact your service or product? What are your capabilities and what is your capacity? It is important to remember that you are not naming a problem nor solution at this point but you are providing a measurable goal.

Hypothesis

What risks, assumptions or dependencies are you hoping to test? What are you hoping to prove or disprove?

Research Questions

What are key questions you will ask users during your research sessions? This section will be more for brainstorming vs an actual session guide but it will be wise to consider mental models and user behavior early on. You can also opt to link out to session guides.

Participants

Who will you be interacting with? What criteria will you use to identify appropriate participants? Include necessary user information as it pertains to the research. These are not personas, rather, prospective or existing end users (possibly based on proto personas).

Deliverables

List possible artifacts and deliverables that may result from your research (i.e. customer journey maps). This list allows you to plan ahead a bit. Know that each stage of research could change this list, so keep track of changes in your notes.

Timeline

What is your timeframe, and what do you hope to accomplish during that time? Be realistic about the projected timeline. A good tip is to count backwards from your end date and calculate the time needed for each method. Here, you can either reflect the goals of a rapid sprint cycle or for each month of your project. When it comes to sprints, you may consider creating a simple table that reflects the weekly activities during the sprint.

Here is an example of a months-long research project:

Month — Month

Month 1: Preparing & Recruiting

Month 2: Conducting

Month 3: Analysis

Month 4: Compile findings for analysis, socialize deliverables (i.e. design & development)

Success Metrics

How will you measure success? What data and existing metrics do you have access to that will provide evidence of impact and achieved product goals? Clearly outline business objectives & KPIs. What criteria will you use to check milestones? How will your research objectives align with business goals?

Methods

Ex. User Interviews

Format: moderated or unmoderated? Virtual or in a lab environment?

Goal: In a few words, what are you trying to understand?

Timeframe: # month(s)

Participants: #interviewS (# user types w/ # interviews each)

Deliverables: ex. Personas

Process: Once it has been created, direct and/or link readers to your User Interview Session Guide.

In a sentence, describe how will you use this method and its benefit.

Constraints

What is your project scope? What are your UX, user, technical and/or business requirements? Are there any budgetary or time constraints? This section is essential and will help keep the research project on track.

Synthesize

How will you analyze your qual and quant data? Where will/does your data already exist (i.e. research repository or spreadsheet)? Include necessary links to internal and external information.

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