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Insights from Conducting Research in China
 

Insights from Conducting Research in China

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Practical tips for researchers based on experience conducting ethnography in China, view with speaker notes from slide 4 on

Practical tips for researchers based on experience conducting ethnography in China, view with speaker notes from slide 4 on

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  • I have been involved in multiple research activities in China, including ethnographic research in homes, schools and businesses. For my initial effort, we examined the home technology use and needs of single adults, married couples and families. Additionally, we studied stores and outlets to understand the purchase process. We also visited parks, restaurants and other local venues to better understand the culture. In another effort, our team conducted contextual inquiries in schools with teachers, parents, students, and school administrators. This activity was followed up with home visits of some student families and continued in other countries. Through these activities and collaborating with colleagues who were conducting similar research, lessons were learned and each research project became easier to conduct.
  • It may seem easier and more cost effective to hire translators but remember that translation is not an exact word for word substitution but an effort at recreating what you say and your intent into a similar sentence. Since ethnography and contextual inquiry are both art and science, we believe it is better to have someone who has some training and knowledge of human factors or other relevant discipline, which leads me to my next point.
  • We have found that regardless of training this is critically important when working from English to Chinese. We gave examples of leading vs. non leading questions, had one interviewer translate both while the other picked the correct one, this allowed them to discuss and refine the subtleties involved. While we found some knowledge and expertise of HF to be quite helpful, ultimately English skills were the most important. For example the difference between a Bachelors, Masters or PhD was less important than the level of English skill.
  • One option is to have one interview and one translate verbatim, or have one take notes while one conducts the interview and you simply observe. We have found a mix to be helpful. One researcher interviewed and took notes while the other also took notes and provided sporadic translation. Springing for two interviewers is also handy if you have several Western researchers on board. The taxis were only able to accommodate 3 people, so you will need one native Chinese speaker in each cab.
  • This has been particularly challenging. Again there are always problems with translations, once your screener is translated have someone else who speaks Chinese review it and read it back to you. It is also challenging to keep a consistent message that you do not want to be identified as the study sponsor, if this is the case. The best thing to do is to write it into the screener script, “This research is being conducted by a research company, we are not allowed to tell you the name of this company because then you would not be allowed to participate.” Recruit from large cities and the neighborhoods around the city center, we used Shanghai and BeijingRealize that you will be skewed toward a generally younger population than in the US
  • If possible, do some research, talk to other people from China or other researchers. Find out what to do so that you don’t offend people and find out what to expect that may be different for you. For example when we were outside of the city people would stop and openly stare at us; this is disconcerting for a Westerner but is not considered to be rude by the Chinese. Learn a few basic phrases, such as hello (ni hao) and thank-you (bu ke qi)There are few Western bathrooms and most do not provide paper so be prepared.
  • No Surprises! Recording is something they may not see as a positive experience so make sure they understand that it is part of the requirements. Do not surprise them with Westerners, they will want to prep for your visit. Be specific when asking each family member how they use technology, ask how they do something, sometimes they are not actually doing it themselves. (this happens in the US as well)
  • This goes back to a previous point about understanding the culture, in most homes we were expected to remove our shoes and they provided slippers or shoe covers for us to wear. Well for one large researcher, the shoe covers and slippers generally didn’t fit so we had to purchase a pair that would work, easily managed but greatly appreciated by our participants.Some homes/schools will not have heat or air conditioningIf you are visiting Shanghai in August or Beijing in winter, be prepared to dress not just for a quick walk from the cab but as you would if you would be remaining outside for a long period of time
  • People will dress up for your visit, offer you drinks and snacks and you should be prepared to accept their hospitality, even when they serve you warm sodas or hot water be gracious. Remember this too when eating/drinking before a session. Food and sharing are a big part of the culture, so you don’t want to offend them by not partaking. This is also a big deal; to have foreigners in their home, so don’t be surprised at the neighbors dropping by, grandma visiting, being put on webcam etc. Few people have the experience of speaking with a native English speaker, especially outside of the main city areas. This is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity for them, so be prepared to let them practice with you and ask questions about your lifestyle
  • This is a basic observational skill but it is particularly important in this type of research. Since you cannot understand the language you will have an inordinate amount of time to observe your surroundings, so take advantage of that.We also had foot massages, went to tea houses, immersed ourselves by visiting stores, parks, restaurants, tourist places etc. It is good to try to get a feel for the people that you are working with.
  • This is where cultural training can come in handy. There are many nuances to saving face and I have been told that there is no way to easily explain it to someone that is not Chinese. One participant asked that he not be videotaped. This condition was supposed to have been made clear in advance but the person had very bad acne, so we decided to film his surroundings and his products and then record his voice.On the other hand, we once recruited a family but the daughter decided not to talk to us and went to her grandmothers to watch her TV show. We asked a few times and they said no so we left gracefully. Later the recruiter informed them that they would be paid as a couple instead of as a family, so they invited us back to interview the daughter. When we arrived the second time we apologized for the mix up and thanked them for seeing us again. This put a potentially awkward situation at ease.Basically be considerate and make sure to not embarrass anyone
  • We have discovered that this is a very expensive and often unnecessary process. If you take the time to debrief completely following each participant and then spend some time discussing the activities with the interviewers, this expense can be avoided. After each session we scheduled an hour or so of downtime to review the interview while it was still fresh in both interviewers’ minds. This is also an excellent time to take advantage of their world renowned foot massages. Seriously, it is extremely important to review, given the language barrier. Keep this in mind when scheduling sessions. Never schedule back to back, in the field you will need debrief time and travel time, in the lab you should schedule a shorter debrief period but still review each session between participants, if you don’t want the added expense of transcription and translation.
  • We once spent a good deal of time discussing a family. Since the interviewer was saying “he” we wrote notes about the father, we asked questions that seemed to confuse our interviewer. After we had moved on to discussing what we thought was the mother, we finally realized that our interviewer had been discussing the mother, not the father all along. In Chinese there is no gender differentiation so the use of he/she is often confused. Even though the interviewers have notes, record the key learnings from each session. If you think there is an emerging theme, jot it down. Since you will not be reviewing each session make sure you have a good synopsis before you move on to the next event.
  • Though I mentioned that this is an expensive process it is not too expensive if you only do a few sessions. This really pays off for future activities. It is an excellent way to review interviewing techniques and give pointers to the interviewers for future activities. It is also a good way to spot check and make sure that your interviewers were not too leading throughout the sessions.
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Insights from Conducting Research in China Insights from Conducting Research in China Presentation Transcript

  • Insights from Conducting Research in China
    Tips and Lessons Learned for UX Researchers
    Christy Harper
    @Christyy41
  • 2
    In today’s global economy, researchers must develop the capability to conduct and coordinate research in diverse cultural environments. As globalization of technology expands, research in emerging markets becomes critical to success.
    Objective: This presentation discusses some of the practical difficulties that cross-cultural researchers experience and provides lessons learned from multiple research activities in China.
  • Agenda
    Overview of Research
    Lessons learned for Preparation and Recruiting
    Tips for Conducting Research
    Challenges with Analysis
    Conclusion
    Questions
    3
  • Background
    4
  • Preparation and Recruiting
    Decide if you are going to hire translators or use someone who speaks English and has human factors or other research experience.
    5
  • Preparation and Recruiting
    Be prepared to conduct some training in the art of asking leading vs. non leading questions
    Give examples
    Practice
    Education vs. English skills
    6
  • Preparation and Recruiting
    If you are doing field work be prepared to have at least 2 translator/researchers
    7
  • Preparation and Recruiting
    Getting the message across to recruiters
    Be specific with screeners
    8
  • Preparation and Recruiting
    Understand the culture
    Do research, talk to others
    Take cultural training
    9
  • Tips for Conducting Research
    Set the expectations
    We were very clear with people that each session would be attended by 2 Chinese and 2 or 3 Westerners or foreigners
    That pictures and recordings would be taken of them and their environment
    That all family members were expected to participate
    10
  • Tips for Conducting Research
    Know what to expect
    Observe the local customs
    Be prepared for weather
    11
  • Tips for Conducting Research
    Realize that this is a social visit so allow time
    Prepare to meet friends and neighbors
    Get ready to practice English with them
    12
  • Tips for Conducting Research
    Notice your environment
    Note what is shown and not shown to the interviewers
    What is used and what is dusty or sitting on a shelf
    13
  • Tips for Conducting Research
    Understand the concept of saving face
    But be prepared to push back when it is necessary
    14
  • Challenges with Analysis
    Decide if you will want to have all of the sessions translated and transcribed
    Debriefing immediately is key
    15
  • Challenges with Analysis
    During debriefing ask a lot of questions of the interviewers.
    Make sure you are on the same page
    Take notes of key learnings and emerging themes throughout the process
    16
  • Challenges with Analysis
    Translate and transcribe one or two interviews
    17
  • 18
    Conclusion
    • Keep tip list in mind when planning your next international research
    18
  • 19
    Handout