15.5. The Process of Contextual Research

The implementation of a contextual research program is not different in structure from other research methods. Figure 15.2 shows the five major stages of contextual research.


15.5.1. Step 1. Designing the Research

The first step in a contextual research study is to design an approach to the fieldwork that will allow the team to collect quality data on people's activities and their context. This step should be approached creatively because it determines who will be recruited for the research and in what kind of environment one will collect rich data. In order to emphasize what we're really looking for in a field situation, let's pretend that anything is possible. Quality data would consist of a video record of a person going about an activity of interest, with an audio record of what they are thinking as they do it, combined with the knowledge of why things are like they are in the current situation (e.g., why files are set up in a particular way, why there is a list of numbers pinned to the wall, etc.) In effect, the researcher is not even present but fully comprehends what is happening.

While this ideal may not be attainable, the research design phase is used to figure out creative ways to capture data. In a real situation, the researcher seeks unfettered ...

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