CN20 - Key Issues in Planning and Making Sense of International Field Research

Susan M. Dray, Dray & Associates, Inc.
David A. Siegel, Dray & Associates, Inc.

International contextual field research is increasingly recognized as essential to user-centered design, but it presents unique challenges in planning the methodology and in making sense of the data. User-centered design professionals who are new to this work and those who are more experienced with it will benefit from analyzing common problems and learning and discussing advanced tips to make their research and interpretations more robust. While we will discuss many of the intellectually fascinating challenges of this work, the focus will be on practical strategies that practitioners can use to address them.

This is a new course for CHI 2008


  • Dealing with the tendency to overload the research agenda
  • Team composition and skills: the importance of outsider and insider perspectives, and skills in bridging them
  • Dealing with the challenges of sampling and recruiting for international fieldwork
  • Integrating the ethnographic (people and context focused) and product focused perspectives to help ensure findings are actionable
  • How to plan where to look for relevant behavioral data
  • Doing a contextual scan to put observed behavior in context
  • Recognizing and dealing with key challenges of interpreting data from international field research

Intended Audience:
This course is intended for experienced user centered design practitioners, but it does not assume any particular level of experience with international field research specifically. Because of the large range of issues and solutions we will cover, it will be useful both to people with advanced experience in international field research and to beginners.

This course is organized around a set of realistic research scenarios that highlight the key challenges of international contextual field research. We will analyze the scenarios to identify the challenges and will discuss a range of techniques, both basic and advanced, to deal with them. The course is very interactive and will draw heavily on the experience of the presenters and attendees.

Susan Dray and David Siegel are both well-known as consultants and presenters with expertise in international field research for user-centered design. To date, they have personally worked in 24 countries in Europe, Asia, North and South America, and Africa for a long list of clients. They have taught many times at CHI and other conferences, both on field research and on international research. They have published many articles and book chapters on this and other usercentered design topics.