How to write a research plan
How to write a research plan that keeps your research on track, sets expectations for stakeholders and keeps them informed.
What you'll need
- Google doc
- That’s it
When you’re starting your UX research, a research project plan is essential for staying on track. With so much research to be done, it can be easy for your scope to creep if you don’t have a plan. Research plans can keep you and—if you have one—your team on track.
Below is how I structure my research plans, and some tips on what to write for each section.
Write a few sentences that will enable anyone reading the research plan to understand the context of your research. Defining why it’s happening and what you’re aiming to understand are a great way of aligning team members and stakeholders.
Here’s where we state who might have initiated the research request, and any relevant internal team members that are interested and would like to know any outcomes.
You should have a maximum of 3-4 research objectives. If you have more, it will be beneficial to split your research into two or more projects. Here we’re stating what the team is aiming to learn at the end of the project. At the end of the research project, we should be able to answer all the objectives. So whether it’s a 6 month user journey project, or research a new feature, we should be able to come to conclusions about these objectives at the end of the time-frame.
Understanding your objectives above, you can select which of your arsenal of methods will be the best for reaching those objectives within your time-frame.
Giving your team an understanding of which KPI’s might be affected by your research, helps them understand the value they’re adding. This might be MRR, user retention or acquisition etc
Describe the type of people you are targeting for this project. Demographics, geography, non-users versus users etc
Research questions/interview guide
Include some question types that might be used in your research. It’s important to let stakeholders know that these may not be the exact questions you’ll ask during an interview, and that a more robust script will be written. Using the TEDW method (Tell me more…, Explain…, Describe what you mean by…, Walk me through…) is a good structure to base questions on.
Define any metrics you’ll be recording such as time on task, task success percentage etc
Given all of the above, plus financial and product constraints, state when you’ll both run the research and be able to report on it. Stating both sets expectations for stakeholders who might be waiting for reporting as soon as you’ve finished the initial research.