Developing a Research Plan



A Research Plan is a document that is an overview of why you are talking to users and influential stakeholders, who you are talking to, what methods you are using to understand users, and where.


Dharamsala, India Research Plan

This is the research plan that the SecondMuse team developed for fieldwork in Dharamsala, India. This should be treated as an example. The form and format can be adapted for your own purposes.

TorDev Research Plan

This is an empathy trip. We are trying to get a greater understanding of where developers are coming from and what’s important to them as they engage in the world of Internet Freedom.


Determining who you are going to speak with and spend time with, when, where and how is an important part of the human-centered design process. Empathy-building activities, whether phone conversations or meeting users to look at a prototype at a conference or spending a couple of weeks in their city, need to be planned and organized around what you want to learn and how you seek to learn it. The following will take you through the Research Plan process: how to develop a document that explains what you are going to do and why that will lead to not only better tool design, but also use of that tool.

The Research Plan is intended to be an overview of your entire approach. The example research plans in the appendix are relatively brief – about four to five pages each. A Research Plan is a living document that should put the entire plan in perspective and be easily referenced, and not be overly lengthy and cumbersome.


A Research Plan gives you a centralized place to explain your user engagement strategy and approach to other developers, intermediaries, and funders. This document is also a great place to get feedback and assistance from these groups to ensure that you are using your time and resources most efficiently to aid in designing and/or improving your tool. Similarly, having a Research Plan keeps you anchored throughout the research process because as new information is learned you see where it fits within your goals.


Once you have decided that it would be beneficial to engage with users regardless of where you are in your development process, it’s a good idea to capture the following categories, but edit as needed to achieve the goals of your work:

SecondMuse developed a research plan for their visit to Dharamsala, India to work with the Tibetan Exile Community.


This is a working document  that you will continuously come back to and may change based on what you are learning from others, resources and constraints you may face. It should however be finalized before you start your active primary research; i.e. talking to users.