International Research Survival Guide – Basic V.1

August 12, 2012 - Design Research

This “basic survival guide” was collected from the learnings shared by colleagues and put together for anyone who is the leader of a research project on an international scale that involves managing resources in other countries; projects demanding a high degree of management and communication throughout.

General Communication

  • “Be aware of any time zone differences when scheduling conference calls.” Victor G.
  • “Take into account if all parties are prepared to work extra hours, if they aren’t, avoid proposing conference calls outside their working hours.” Victor G.
  • “Be extremely punctual for conference calls.” Victor G.



  • “Travelling expenses might vary considerably from one month to another, please pay attention to the estimated cost and verify their chance of validity within nearby dates [Eg. Take into account bank holidays, etc.]” Victor G.
  • When planning timing, take into account transportation time to the field.

Project Briefing

  • Share the project timing with the team and be sure to go through it in detail with each country so they can provide you with quick feedback about feasibility. They might be aware of certain difficulties the project hasn’t foreseen, which they normally face while recruiting or in the field of their own country. [e.g. In London one must consider the length of commuting times and that the participant incentive rates are different from Europe.]
  • Go through the research objectives and highlight the idea behind them.

KEY MATERIAL: Project timing, Research Objectives (no more than 1 page).


  • Make a call to each team explaining the screener, allow one day for every country to adapt or translate it.
  • Be sure to review all variables possible that might become an obstacle, such as recruitment agency, contacting times, screener questions, incentives, etc.
  • Have an open communication process throughout the whole recruiting phase, in order to prevent delays.
  • If any of the countries identify an obstacle, try to prepare a plan B in order to solve the issue or communicate it to the client as soon as possible.


  • Run a pilot or more than one if needed [Eg. Co-creation sessions need to be carefully tested in order to ensure results]
  • Document the pilot (photos and material) in order to explain the  process to the participant countries. Make a lightweight document explaining each part of the field work and how they relate to the final goals, so it is easy for them to capture key information even after adapting the material to their own communication style.
  • Make a call and go through the fieldwork document so the participant countries are able to clear up any doubts they have and so you can share ideas on the best way to overcome possible issues and still accomplish the research objectives.
  • It would be advisable to begin the field work in those countries that are located in an earlier time zone. Eg. Brazil will be the first if the project started from Europe. The purpose of this is to gain extra hours or a day to solve potential problems that might arise in other countries.

KEY MATERIAL: Fieldwork explanation document.
Analysis & Report

  • “In the case of contextual interviews, participant profiles are a great ingredient for success, thinking that one objective of design research is to invoke empathy you should request participant and relevant contextual photos highlighting key characteristics that will later on be instrumental for you to recognize patterns and come up with valuable insights across countries.” Camila B.
  • Report draft: be open to receive a first draft of the report and be quick to provide general feedback direction, if needed. This will also help you to get ahead with preliminary findings and will provide feedback to the participant country in order for Designit to improve research quality and agility (iteration rules!).
  • In case of any delays receiving the draft, prepare a set of key questions (Max 10)  that might help you to go forward and that will also communicate the importance of a report draft to the participant country.

KEY MATERIAL: Report outline, report draft, feedback and final report.
Client Workshop

  • For all countries that are involved in the project, participation in the workshop is critical to providing first hand insights into questions that the client or colleagues might raise. Please, try to ensure the participation of each country in the workshop.
  • “Send all participants a short report about the research findings, the workshop agenda and the list of all stakeholders before the workshop takes place, so that everyone has a common understanding of it and are able to collaborate towards its final goal.” Yeli T.
  • As part of the research team, please study the background of the participants from the client’s side (e.g. via LinkedIn), in order to understand the roles and interests of different stakeholders.
  • As moderator, be sure that you make the goal and expected outcome of the workshop clear at the very beginning. // Result: all participants understand and agree on what is supposed to be achieved by the end of the session.

KEY MATERIAL: Summary of main research findings, workshop agenda, list of participants (with linkedins).

Wishlist for the future:

  • Try to establish a routine or system for sharing daily fieldwork outcomes in draft form so this valuable time can be used in the analysis/synthesis phase.