Inclusive Research Guidelines
Research has the power to make the world a better place. For this to happen, researchers have a responsibility to do more inclusive research.
We’ve long hoped the tool we’ve built at dscout can facilitate empathy-inspiring, context-revealing, work. But who we empathize with, how effectively we empathize, what context we reveal, and how we arrive at that context, can be the difference between research that is genuinely in service to others, or that leaves a large swath of users out.
We drafted these guidelines to promote an inclusive environment where all scouts feel safe, respected, valued and free to be who they are. They’re a starting point, a collection of best practices from a number of excellent sources who have been advocating in this space for some time.
We at dscout acknowledge that we are entering an active conversation that has been happening for decades, and are continuously working to listen and learn how to better advocate for and facilitate more inclusive research. We encourage our community of researchers to do the same.
Below you'll find a list of our inclusive research guidelines. Tap the links to read in-depth about each of these guidelines below:
- Embrace research participants as stakeholders and collaborators.
- Use language with care.
- Allow for self identification.
- Take special care to avoid microaggressions and microinvalidations.
- Be mindful of your method.
- Recruit on behavior, not identity.
- When writing questions, consider experiences other than your own.
- Recognize unconscious bias and check your assumptions.
- Warn participants about potential re-traumatizing experiences.
- Allow space and time for interview accommodations.
Embrace research participants as stakeholders and collaborators.
Remember that research should always be in service to your participants. Non-extractive research requires bidirectional respect. Build a trusting relationship with your participants through reliable communications, clear expectations and fair incentives. (read more)
- For example, be mindful of instances when economic insecurity could be a barrier to participation. Always pay incentives promptly and choose incentive amounts fairly for the time and effort required. If your research requires a participant to make a purchase, consider sending a purchase stipend upfront or very promptly after purchase.
Use language with care.
When working with a social identity group you’re unfamiliar with, pre-research is an important step to build understanding and fluency. If you’re not sure of the right terminology to use, allow participants to self-identify and/or do the due diligence to understand the preferred language used by the individuals who are most impacted. Here are a few examples to consider:
- If you're asking for gender, provide options for gender (man, woman, nonbinary, prefer to self-identify) rather than giving options for sex (male and female). (read more)
- It’s a good idea to use person-first language to honor a participant’s full humanity (for example, “person with Paraplegia” is person-first language while “Paraplegic” is not). (read more)
- Embrace anti-racist language in study design by, for example, capitalizing the B in Black when discussing identity or replacing the use of “master” with “main” or “global”. (read more)
dscout note: We reviewed our demographic profile questions in 2021 and updated them to be more inclusive. We will continue to revisit these terms.
Which of the following best describes you? Select all that apply.
Which of the following best describes you?
American Indian or Alaska Native
Black or African American
Hispanic or Latinx
Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
Middle Eastern or North African
Prefer to self identify (Tap to Type)
Prefer not to say
Prefer not to say
Prefer to self-identify (tap to type)
Allow for self identification.
The language around identity is constantly evolving. Allow space for expression in self-identification rather than presuming the identity of your participants.
- For example, some people with deafness consider this a language barrier, not a disability (read more). If physical or cognitive ability is relevant to your research or recruitment, consider asking “Would you describe yourself as a person with a disability? No / I’m not sure / Yes (tap to type)”. (read more)
dscout Note: Our customizable tap to type functionality in single and multiple select questions gives scouts a way to self-describe if the listed choices don’t fully or best describe their reality. Our Open-Ended Responses View pulls most-used words from open ended questions into a word bubble, which can be used to help visualize scouts’ language and preferred identification when asked in an open-ended format.
Take special care to avoid microaggressions and microinvalidations.
Microaggressions are brief indignities that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative insults to a person or group. Microinvalidations exclude, negate, or nullify the experiential reality of certain groups. Remember that intentional and unintentional microaggressions and microinvalidations are equally valid and harmful. (read more)
- For example, if you’re asking participants to share a social identity (whether race, gender identity, etc), be careful with how you phrase categories. Other and Custom can imply that these options were “outside of something” or left out. “Prefer to Self Identify” and “Add Your Own” can be more inclusive and empowering. (read more).
- Similarly, when asking questions about identity, multiple-select questions can be more appropriate than single-select which can be limiting and erase elements of a participant’s identity.
dscout note: Scouts have the ability to self-identify their gender, provide their pronouns (including a "tap to type" option), and select multiple ethnicities (if applicable) via their Profile.
Be mindful of your method.
Consider the needs of your participants as a key input in your choice of methods and always use WCAG 2.0 compliant research tools. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are a set of recommendations for making content accessible to people with disabilities including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. (read more)
dscout note: dscout’s iOS and Android mobile apps, Live desktop, and desktop Diary activities are WCAG 2.0 AA compliant when it comes to the Scout experience (excluding dscout’s Stimuli feature which does not yet support text captions to accompany visual stimuli). We are in the process of continuing to certify other desktop functionality including web screeners and our marketing website (dscout.com).
Recruit on behavior, not identity.
When recruiting according to identity, reconsider why identity qualifies a participant for your research. Often, identity classifications simply serve as shortcuts for assumptions about behavioral characteristics.
- For example, If you’re recruiting participants who shop for mens’ pants, recruit people who buy mens’ pants, not people who identify as men.
dscout note: dscout Research Advisors will help to revise questions or communications that could trigger harmful experiences for Scouts. dscout asks researchers to act with care when recruiting Scouts on the basis of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability and religion. Avoid automatically terminating Scouts on the basis of identity.
When writing questions, consider experiences other than your own.
Consider how someone with a different life experience might receive your questions and take care to use accessible language. The burden of understanding should be on the researcher not the participant (read more). Avoid idioms, jargon, acronyms, and metaphors that may be confusing to participants and create barriers for effective communication (read more). Seek out feedback from teammates or formally test your research design through a paid pilot with a few participants.
dscout note: dscout’s Test Mode for Diary missions allows you to move through your mission from a scout’s point of view before launching. Invite yourself and other members of your team to test for inclusive questions, wording, and framing.
Recognize unconscious bias and check your assumptions.
Research indicates we are drawn toward people who look like us. When selecting participants, recognize and resist this bias and instead, work to recruit a diverse group of participants. As always, bias is an important consideration in research design as well. (read more)
dscout note: Check your demographic representation before finalizing your recruit and inviting scouts to a paid mission. Use the Closed-Ended Responses View within your screener to see the demographic breakdown of your selected scouts.
Warn participants about potential re-traumatizing experiences.
Consider what data you need and how to reduce harm to your participant. If your research could require painful reflection or difficult lines of questioning, be fully transparent in communicating this requirement upfront so participants have the opportunity to decline participation before dedicating any time. Consider designing your research in a flexible way that empowers participants to speak to the experiences they’re comfortable with. Prioritize consent by letting participants know they don’t need to answer questions that may make them feel uncomfortable or upset. Recognize that this might be a person’s first time sharing their story. (read more)
dscout note: Use mission instructions and screener teasers to clearly state what will be required of Scouts. If Scouts have the flexibility to opt out of specific questions, be sure to set that expectation within the instructions or question prompt. You can also use checkpoint questions for sensitive communications throughout a mission script.
Allow space and time for interview accommodations.
Provide clear instructions and schedule with plenty of notice so participants have time to prepare. Consider introducing yourself ahead of the session to give participants the opportunity to request any accommodations they may need.
- For example, you could send the following message such as this: "We're excited to learn from your experiences during our interview on [DATE]. My name is [NAME], and I'll be your moderator for this session. It's important that we create an accessible and comfortable virtual space for our conversation, so please let us know if there are any accommodations that we can make ahead of the call."
This resource is just a starting point. We highly recommend clicking through to the links found throughout. These guidelines will evolve as we continue to learn and listen. If you see something harmful or incorrect in the guidelines above, or if you have resources you’d like to share, please reach out to email@example.com.
- Diversity & Inclusion in Design: Why Do They Matter? by Antionette Carroll
- Mismatch: How Inclusion Shapes Design by Kat Homes
- Inclusive Research presentation by Lauren Isaacson
- How white is your UX practice?: inclusion and diversity in critical UX research by Karine Larose and Simon Barron
- How to begin designing for diversity by Boyuan Gao and Jahan Mantin
- How Technology Perpetuates Racism by Design by Charlton McIlwain
- Workplace Culture + Microaggressions in Tech by Shanae Ullman
Further Reading from dscout
- Inclusive and Accessible UX: A Starter Syllabus by Tony Ho Tran
- 4 Design Principles for Gender-Identity Inclusion (and How to Get Them Implemented) by Jess Mons and Lindsey Brinkworth
- Why (and How) to Pay Attention to Accessibility in Design interview with Lauren Isaacson by Tony Ho Tran
- How We Empathize in UX Matters interview with Alba Villamil by Tony Ho Tran
- Design in Three Dimensions interview with Jutta Treviranus by Carrie Niell
- Good Design is Cross-Cultural interview with Senongo Akpem by Tony Ho Tran
- 4 Thoughtful Principles for Service-Minded UXR interview with Taranamol Kaur, Nate Mahoney, and Aditi Rao by Tony Ho Tran
- How to Redesign for Justice interview with Antionette Carroll