🪄What should you avoid when framing research questions?

Crafting the right research questions is the cornerstone of any successful research endeavor. But do you know what not to ask?

🪄What should you avoid when framing research questions?

Written by: Prerna Chauhan

Today we're diving into a critical aspect of user research: asking the right questions. It's a skill that can make or break the quality of your findings. Why? Because the questions you pose during user interviews can introduce bias and skew your results.

So to drive the point home, let's explore some key types of questions to avoid during your user research interviews to keep things as unbiased as possible.

Leading Questions: You know those questions that practically beg for a specific answer? They're called leading questions. For instance, if you ask, "Don't you agree that this feature is useful?" you're guiding your participant toward a particular response. Instead, you can go for open-ended questions like, "What are your thoughts on this feature?" to encourage unbiased feedback.

Double-Barreled Questions: These questions are like two-in-one deals, but they're more confusing than convenient. For example, "Do you find the website easy to navigate and visually appealing?" Sometimes they just say "yes" to both questions, making the question even more confusing! It's better to split this into two separate questions: one about navigation and another about visual appeal. This way, participants can express their thoughts more clearly.

Loaded Questions: These pack an emotional punch, using strong language that can affect responses. For instance, "How frustrated were you when using our product?" Try to keep things neutral and ask, "What challenges did you face when using our product?" for a more balanced response. 

Hypothetical Questions: Avoid asking participants to predict the future, like, "Would you buy our product if it had this feature?" Instead, focus on their past experiences or current perceptions. Ask questions like, "Have you purchased similar products in the past?" for more concrete insights. Unless you're asking about the future of the stock market, in which case, go right ahead!

Binary (Yes/No) Questions: These questions can be too limiting. Avoid them when you need detailed responses. Instead, opt for open-ended questions that allow participants to share their thoughts more freely.

Assumptive Questions: Never assume what your participants know or prefer. For instance, don't say, "Since you're a frequent traveler, do you prefer this type of luggage?" Instead, ask, "What features do you look for in luggage when you travel?" to get unbiased insights.

Social Desirability Bias: Be aware that participants may give answers they think are socially acceptable. For instance, if you ask, "Do you recycle regularly?" you might get inflated "yes" responses. Instead, ask about their actual habits and experiences to minimize bias.

Leading by Example: Avoid influencing participants by giving examples that could affect their responses. For instance, don't say, "Some users have found our app to be very intuitive. What are your thoughts?" This might bias participants to agree with your example.

Negative Framing: How you frame questions matters. Negative framing, like, "What problems did you encounter with our product?" can lead to more negative responses. Instead, try, "What worked well for you with our product, and where did you encounter challenges?" for a balanced perspective.

Assumption of Knowledge: Ensure your participants understand technical terms or jargon you use. Avoid questions that assume a level of expertise they might not have.

By steering clear of these biased question types, you'll collect more accurate and valuable insights during your user research interviews. Remember, the goal is to let your participants express their thoughts and experiences freely, so you can make informed decisions based on real, unbiased feedback. Happy researching!

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Cover photo by: Sora Shimazaki