Posted by: clare on: December 18, 2011
The week before last I ran a study with eight participants. That’s not a humungous number, but let’s be honest, even a study with one participant requires much preparation: you need to figure out what theory you’re dealing with, what questions you’re addressing, if the methodology is sound, the ethical facets, practicalities (have I got a room? supplies? instructions?), whether the instructions for participants make sense, and on and on and on.
After the study there’s plenty more to do: data to digitise, anonymise, analyse; conclusions to draw; papers to write; follow-ups to plan.
During the study itself — in this case, a four-hour time period spent with the participants — I noticed a really strange effect. For much of the time, I was very active: providing information, responding to questions, making sure we had adequate supplies of water and tea. But a couple of times, there were points where the participants were deeply immersed in their allocated activities, all the supplies we needed were present, and my own presence was very much diminished.
In short, I had nothing to do.
Those low blue points represent my “…what now?” moments.
Of course, I’m deeply grateful to my participants for freely giving their time to come along and work hard during the study: I’d have got nowhere fast without ‘em.