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Qualitative HCI Reearch: Going Behind the Scenes (Ann Blandford, Dominic Furniss & Stephann Makri)

Published: April 2016    Publisher: Morgan & Claypool

Qualitative HCI Research

Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) addresses problems of interaction design: understanding user needs to inform design, delivering novel designs that meet user needs, and evaluating new and existing designs to determine their success in meeting user needs. Qualitative methods have an essential role to play in this enterprise, particularly in understanding user needs and behaviours and evaluating situated use of technology. Qualitative methods allow HCI researchers to ask questions where the answers are more complex and interesting than "true" or "false," and may also be unexpected. In this lecture, we draw on the analogy of making a documentary film to discuss important issues in qualitative HCI research: historically, films were presented as finished products, giving the viewer little insight into the production process; more recently, there has been a trend to go behind the scenes to expose some of the painstaking work that went into creating the final cut. Similarly, in qualitative research, the essential work behind the scenes is rarely discussed. There are many "how to" guides for particular methods, but few texts that start with the purpose of a study and then discuss the important details of how to select a suitable method, how to adapt it to fit the study context, or how to deal with unexpected challenges that arise. We address this gap by presenting a repertoire of qualitative techniques for understanding user needs, practices and experiences with technology for the purpose of informing design. We also discuss practical considerations such as tactics for recruiting participants and ways of getting started when faced with a pile of interview transcripts. Our particular focus is on semi-structured qualitative studies, which occupy a space between ethnography and surveys—typically involving observations, interviews and similar methods for data gathering, and methods of analysis based on systematic coding of data. Just as a documentary team faces challenges that often go unreported when arranging expeditions or interviews and gathering and editing footage within time and budget constraints, so the qualitative research team faces challenges in obtaining ethical clearance, recruiting participants, analysing data, choosing how and what to report, etc. We present illustrative examples drawn from prior experience to bring to life the purpose, planning and practical considerations of doing qualitative studies for interaction design. We include takeaway checklists for planning, conducting, reporting and evaluating semi-structured qualitative studies.

  • Takes readers 'behind the scenes' by exposing important questions and challenges for planning and conducting qualitative HCI research;
  • Adopts a documentary filmmaking metaphor to help readers understand the importance of rigour and creativity in research;
  • Discusses key theoretical approaches, including Grounded Theory and Thematic Analysis;
  • Encourages both reflective and reflexive research approaches;
  • Illustrates key HCI research issues - with comic strips!
  • Ideal for HCI Masters and PhD students embarking on qualitative HCI research for their dissertations.

Accidental Information Discovery: Cultivating Serendipity in the Digital Age (Edited by Tammera M. Race & Stephann Makri)

Published: June 2016    Publisher: Chandos Publishing

Accidental Information Discovery

Accidental Information Discovery: Cultivating Serendipity in the Digital Age provides readers with an interesting discussion on the ways serendipity-defined as the accidental discovery of valued information-plays an important role in creative problem-solving. This insightful resource brings together discussions on serendipity and information discovery, research in computer and information science, and interesting thoughts on the creative process. Five thorough chapters explore the significance of serendipity in creativity and innovation, the characteristics of serendipity-friendly tools and minds, and how future discovery environments may encourage serendipity.


  • Focuses on how we can cultivate serendipity (individually and in digital information environments);
  • Bridges theory and practice;
  • Adopts a multidisciplinary perspective;
  • Explores current and future 'serendipitious' digital information landscapes, with essays from prominent academic researchers;
  • Ideal for gaining an understanding of the important role of serendipity on the Web and beyond.