Study with Stephann

Studying for a PhD can be a highly rewarding experience that will enable you to enhance your existing knowledge, create new knowledge and share the new knowledge you create with others. It also serves as training for a career in research and academia. A full-time PhD in the UK takes around 3 years to complete and involves regular supervision from one or more experts in your chosen field of study.

Stephann would be happy to discuss opportunities for full or part-time PhD study in London. Please contact him to arrange a face-to-face meeting, telephone call or Skype.

Stephann would be particularly interested in supervising PhDs in the broad areas of:
  • Information interaction - understanding how people find, interpret and make use of digital information and using this understanding to design digital tools to support them in doing so.
  • Human-Computer Interaction - understanding human needs for technology and using this understanding to help design technology that meets those needs.
  • Information Science and Technology - understanding how peoples' information needs and behaviour can be supported by technology.

Here are some potential research topics Stephann would be interested in supervising. This is by no means an exhaustive list and Stephann would also be happy to supervise research on a broad range of HCI topics, particularly if you already have an idea you're passionate about. Contact him to arrange an informal chat.

Information Interaction: Understanding how people find, interpret and/or use digital information

Information Interaction is research area that involves understanding peoples' behaviour and rationale when interacting with digital information tools - such as Web pages, digital libraries, information-rich mobile apps. etc. This involves enriching our understanding of how users currently and might in future:

  • Find information (either actively seeking it by searching and browsing for it, or passively encountering it - when looking for something else, when browsing with no particular aim or when not looking for information at all).
  • Interpret information - how users decide/prioritise what information to look at, or examine in more detail (known as 'information triage'), how users analyse, synthesise and evaluate information and apply it to meet their needs.
  • Use information - how users work with information once they've found it (how they organise, edit, annotate it etc.).

This enriched understanding will then be used to inform the design of new and/or improvement of existing digital information tools. Stephann encourages prospective students who are interested in one or more of these broad information interaction topics to contact him to arrange an informal chat. This chat will help us refine the research area based on your individual interests and expertise.

From search to discovery: Designing and evaluating a 'serendipity engine'

Search engines are great at helping us find information when we know what we are looking for (either roughly or precisely), but they are not so useful in helping us find information where we do not know what we were looking for until we've found it. What we need are new technologies that support us in discovering useful information even when we are not directly searching or browsing for it - we need to move from designing search engines to designing engines that are capable of supporting both precise information search and less-precise information discovery. But how can we best achieve this through design? What role should the technology and the user play in the discovery? And how can we best evaluate the success of digital tools that support information discovery? Those are some of the questions you might choose to address in your PhD research.

Evaluation beyond usability

The UX practitioner's toolkit of User Inspection and Evaluation Methods has remained relatively similar for the past decade; e.g. consisting of Think-aloud studies, Heuristic Evaluation, Expert Reviews, Cognitive Walkthroughs etc. Most of these existing HCI methods focus on evaluating usability (rather than other aspects of the User Experience). Can and should we design useful new methods that move beyond usability to cover the broad User Experience? Rather than evaluate only the interface and interaction design, can we also find useful ways of assessing the visual design and/or Information Architecture? Can and should we design useful new methods that move beyond traditional evaluation success criteria such as usability, usefulness and learnability to cover emotive success criteria such as (positive) surprise, delight or engagement? If yes, how can we best achieve this?