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User research

Capturing research questions

You can use research questions to help you plan and prioritise user research.

When to capture research questions

The best time to capture research questions is at the start of a new development phase, especially discovery, alpha and beta.

You should re-visit and refine your questions as you learn more about your users and service. Understanding what your team wants to learn, and how this changes over time, is an important part of planning user research for your service.

Steps to follow

Plan your research sessions carefully for best results.

Plan your session

When you want to capture research questions:

  • book a space big enough for your team to write questions, with a wall you can post them on
  • aim for sessions to last about an hour - they can take longer with a new team or service
  • invite everyone on your team - writing research questions together will help you to agree what’s most important
  • make sure you have lots of sticky notes and pens

Review the problem

Start the workshop with the service owner or product owner reminding the team about:

  • the outcomes the team is trying to achieve - both for users and the organisation
  • things the team will need to do in the next development phase

Capture questions

Ask everyone to think about what they want to learn from research in the next phase. After this:

  • give people 5-10 minutes to write down their questions on sticky notes
  • explain that broad, open questions (like ‘who’, ‘what’, ‘when’, ‘where’ or ‘why’) are more helpful than narrow or specific ones (like ‘do’, ‘have’, ‘will’ or ‘can’)
  • remind them that these are things you need to learn, not questions you will ask users

After people have finished writing their questions:

  • ask everyone to place their notes on a wall and start sorting them into related groups
  • allow team members to add new questions that are prompted by other people’s
  • combine similar questions, refining any that are unclear
  • write a summary question for each group of similar questions

Prioritise the questions

To decide the priority:

  • ask team members to identify the highest priority questions by marking a dot on the 5 questions they think need answering first
  • arrange the groups - and questions in each - in priority order

Use the research questions

Once you have your prioritised research questions:

  • copy them into a shared document or team collaboration tool
  • decide which research questions to focus on in your next sprint
  • decide which research activities will help you to answer your questions

Examples and case studies

Read a blog post about how the Open Registers team uses a kanban board to generate and share user research questions.

You may also find these guides useful:

Last update:

Added guidance on reviewing objectives ahead of capturing questions.

  1. Guidance first published