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Activity-Based Research

By Meena Kothandaraman

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Session type

Focus Talk


Thu, 19 Oct 2023


main stage

About this session

Here is a scenario - does this resonate?

You conduct data gathering in a research study. As the researcher, you place heavy emphasis on how to ask the “right question”. Even after careful scrutiny of the questions, your interactions yield shallow answers from participants. This results in lots of chatter afterward about the participant being “good” or “bad”.

Let’s think about the details here.

As the researcher – ask yourself:
Do you really ever deliver the question exactly as it is written?

Now put yourself in the participant’s shoes:
When was the last time you spoke about a topic, that you don’t think about all the time, for one hour or longer? If so, were your thoughts always well-formed?

It’s time to rethink the way we connect with participants when asking them questions.

In this talk, Meena will introduce the concept of activity-based protocols. This approach invites participants to think more deeply about what they want to share, and in a way that allows them to unravel their own thoughts. Using activity-based protocols inherently removes the emphasis on the researcher to
craft the “right question”.

Meena will share examples of typical questions in a way that encourages the participant to share rich answers, in a fun and transparent manner.

About Meena

Meena Kothandaraman

Meena Kothandaraman

Experience Strategist at twig+fish

With 30+ years of experience, Meena has consulted to emphasise the strategic value and positioning of qualitative research in the design of product, space and service. Meena is fascinated by the complexity of human behaviour, and applies a credible, structured and transparent approach to integrating human stories and anecdotes into mainstream processes. This ensures that research activities provide the best service to the organisation, and that learning objectives are addressed to maximise potential.

Meena is a founding member of twig+fish, a research and strategy practice based in Boston, MA, that espouses these research beliefs, while maintaining a utopic work-life balance. She is also a key Lecturer in the Bentley University Human Factors and Information Design (HFID) graduate program. Over her 20+year tenure, her capstone qualitative research course has guided now- leading practitioners to integrating meaningful and successful research practices. She has openly shared her experience as a WOC as part of the curriculum she has constructed.

She holds an M.S. in Information Resources Management from Syracuse University and a B.Com. in MIS from the University of Ottawa, Canada. Meena is always inspired in her work by her other passions, namely performing as a South-Indian Classical Violinist, pursuing culinary arts through a learn-to-cook program, and learning about the career pursuits of her two children!