User Research

Generative Research | An Exhaustive Take on the UX Research Method!

Manoj Rana
May 24, 2024
min read
Generative Research | An Exhaustive Take on the UX Research Method!
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“Research has been called good business, a necessity, a gamble, a game. It is none of these – it’s a state of mind.” - Martin H. Fischer.

Just like happiness is a state of mind, user research is a state of mind, too. User research is not the ultimate goal. It is an eternal process that assists brands in building and refining cutting-edge products and keep them relevant with time.

How do you think big businesses like McDonald's, Starbucks Coffee, and Apple retain their top position in the market? It is because of user research. These brands invest intensively in user research to create products aligning with the user’s needs.

One of the best research methodologies is generative research. Conducted via various methods, generative research forms the base for every successful product development process. I have created this extensive guide on generative research. Let's go ahead and unpack it!

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What is Generative Research?

“A problem well stated is a problem half solved.” - Charles Kettering.

These are wise words, and generative research fits them.

Generative research aims to generate a deeper understanding of the users from every aspect. Unlike other research methods, it does not aim to solve a specific problem but takes a deep and comprehensive approach to understand user's perceptions, ideas, opinions, attitudes, etc.

Generative research is classified as a qualitative method where open-ended questions are used.

As generative research is conducted at the beginning of the project, it is known by several names, such as exploratory research, discovery research, foundation research, problem-face research, etc.

You can conduct generative research through various methods such as surveys, focus groups, user interviews, etc. All of these methods have their specific benefits that will be discussed further in the blog.

Generative Research Methods!

It is not just generative research; every user's research is necessary to provide an awesome user experience. The following user experience stats support the claim.

  • 32% of customers would leave a brand they loved after just one bad experience.
  • 9% set aside their purchase because the checkout didn’t include enough payment methods
  • 90% of users have stopped using an app due to poor performance.

There are countless other statistics that enforce the need for user experience. With generative research, you can discover valueable user insights and focus on improving user experience.

Let's uncover the various methods of conducting generative research.

  • Ethnographic studies

Ethnographic studies are an impressive generative research methodology where the researcher observes the user of a particular culture in its completely natural environment.

The user’s activities, behaviors, and thoughts in their daily environment and culture help in garnering a better understanding of them. This ultimately helps in shaping culture-specific products and services.

An example of an ethnographic study can be observing the employees of the office working on their systems. Based on the observations, specific products like productivity software or entertainment activities can be added.

  • Open-ended survey questions

Open-end survey questions are a comprehensive and effective way to gather user experience. In generative research, this is the best methodology as it helps you capture a deeper understanding of your user base.

You can create open-ended questions where users can speak freely about their opinions, thoughts, references, and much more.

Unlike closed-ended survey questions, these do not have any specific options. So, you may have to filter out a lot of irrelevant data by yourself. Your research plan should definitely include this method.

  • Field studies

Slightly related to ethnographic study, field study deals with analyzing the actions, behavior, and preferences of a user in their natural setting. Unlike ethnographic study, where the focus is on the user of a particular culture, field study includes capturing data on a relevant phenomenon or behavior.

Data parameters can include pain points, experiences, and needs of the user. This directly helps in making changes in product design and functionality.

Critical Add-on: I have found an effective way to conduct field research. Instead of going to an actual field or marketplace, try going to online forums and communities where discussions related to your product niche happen. It will provide you with a better understanding. You can also attend local industry conferences nearby.

  • Open card sorting

Want to understand how to organize information or content on your website or app? I have found a solution for you, which is open card sorting. It is one of the generative research methods where users are provided with cards with different content and information.

The research requires the users to group or arrange the card in the most meaningful way. Based on the results, researchers can easily deduce the information structure that the users like. They can create mental models and design the app and website UI based on it.

Learn about quantitative methods to improve user experience design!

  • User interviews

Besides all the methods described so far, user interviews serve as the base of generative research. In this, a researcher and a user engage in a face-to-face, one-on-one conversation, where a researcher probes the users with open-ended questions.

User interviews help discover users' pain points, opinions, motivations, and preferences. These interviews are a more direct and easy way to find new ideas and user insights.

Add-on fact: User interviews can save you a lot of time recruiting users. It can save around 108 hours to hire 10 users through user interviews.

  • Literature Review

For a researcher, a literature review can significantly reduce the effort. A literature review involves a researcher studying the research that has already been published. Rather than wasting their efforts on conducting a survey or monitoring a focus group, a researcher can just tap into published studies related to their industry and filter out the relevant data.

This method is best for those businesses that have yet to discover their customers. If you are new and want to know who your customers are, a literature review can be a cost-effective and fast option.

Why is Generative Research Important?

why is generative research so important?
Importance of Generative Research

Generative research can help you reap numerous benefits irrespective of your business type. Let me highlight some of the primary ones for you!

  • Informed decision-making

With generative research methods like surveys, focus groups, and user interviews, one can unlock several relevant customer insights for the design process. For example, with user interviews, you can extract relevant feedback and preferences regarding the website design from the users.

Moreover, the open card sorting method can help find out how the information should be presented on your app or website. This helps in making better design decisions.

  • Comprehend user needs

Generative research can help you comprehend user needs. Almost all generative research methods include communicating with the users and extracting relevant information regarding user issues, needs, opinions, and preferences.

This directly impacts the quality of the product delivered to the users.

  • Reducing risks

Poor product or a product that is not required by the users can significantly put the company at risk. As per statistics, 42% of startups fail due to the lack of a market-fit product.

To create a market-fit product, user research is supercritical. Understanding users' preferences and behaviors helps in reducing risks and ensures business growth.

  • Validating assumptions

You see, products cannot be built on assumptions. Generative research aims to validate assumptions and strategize the design and development process.

A well-planned research of the users and the market can help a brand build profitable products while maintaining a low profile.

  • Builds Empathy

I have witnessed that the business market can be pretty dwindling. Once your competitor launches a new feature in the product, your product market may go down the drain.

Therefore, while conducting your research, it is best to put yourself in the customer’s shoes.

Thinking from the customer’s perspective helps build empathy and align with market trends.

How is Generative Research Different From Evaluative Research?

Generative Research vs Evaluative Research

"Generative research dives into 'What problem might we solve?' while evaluative research asks, 'How well is our solution working?' " - Erika Hall.

Evaluative research is just the other side of the coin. Here are some primary differences between generative and evaluative research.

Evaluative ResearchGenerative Research
Evaluation research encapsulates everything you need to know about a product’s impact and effectiveness.
It further helps in understanding user satisfaction.
The goal of generative research is to comprehend user needs, ideas, opinions, and preferences.
This helps in building better products and services.
Evaluative research is conducted after product implementation to make further modifications and improvements to the products.Generative research is conducted at the beginning of the product or service development process.
Evaluative research includes methods such as
Usability testing
A/B testing
Tree testing
Generative research methods include
User interviews
Field studies
Open card sorting
Ethnographic studies
Evaluative research is converged at customer retention.In contrast, generative research primarily focuses on customer acquisition.

Here is everything about the types of user interviews you can use for generative research!

How to Effectively Conduct Generative Research?

So, let's deal with the elephant in the room. We have studied all the methods of generative research so far. But they are of no use if you don't know how to conduct generative research.

Yes, there are research questions that you can ask, but there is a perfect sequence to ask those questions.

Let me help you understand how to conduct generative UX research.

Examining the project

The first step to conducting generative research is to examine the project. Project examination can include several aspects, such as

  • The goal of the project.
  • What methods to use?
  • Expected outcomes.
  • The number of team members required.
  • Expertise required.

Once you have the answers to these questions, you can move on to the next step.

Creating the Research Plan

The second step to conducting successful generative research is to create a research plan. I must say that this is the crucial point from where everything can go right or wrong. There are certain aspects that need to be finalized here before moving forward.

Some of those primary aspects are

  1. The background of the research includes a discussion of the problem for which the research is conducted, aka the problem statement.
  2. The objectives of the research.
  3. The participating users and how to choose the participants.
  4. Chosen methods and the interview guide, which includes how to conduct the interviews along with questions and conclusions.
  5. Timeline of the research.

Conduct the UX Research

This is where the magic happens. You have to conduct the research via surveys, focus groups,  or interviews.

Based on the chosen method, you can conduct your research. For example, if you choose interviews, you can break them down into before, during, and after the interview activities.

You can set the stage, practice your script, and form the sequence of questions before the interview. Listen actively during the interview and build rapport. Lastly, focus on gathering the data for further analysis.

Analyzing and Synthesizing Data

The next step in the research process is analyzing and synthesizing data. Now, generative research helps you acquire data, but the compiling of data is your job. Analyzing and synthesizing data involve several steps, such as

  • Reviewing and transcribing data
  • Writing research summaries
  • Pattern recognition and analysis
  • Brainstorming and ideation

Presenting the research findings

Let's move on to the final step: presenting your findings and applying them.

Once you have filtered the most relevant version of your research, it is time to present it. Present it in the best way by keeping these steps in mind!

  • Keep it short
  • Keep the primary aspect of the research in the longest slide.
  • Add high-quality visual images, videos, and GIFs.

Further, you need to provide implementation tips. Here is how I suggest you should do it!

  • Provide strong recommendations
  • Include embodiments to provide the big-picture value
  • Add relevant details to make it lucrative.

Are There Any Challenges to Generative Research?

Though you can use generative research to reap several benefits, you may face some potential challenges.

  1. Getting the right participants

Generative research begins with the challenge of finding the right participants. There are a large number of users in the market. Not all of them are potentially aware of the product features and other characteristics.

Therefore, it is tough to find the ideal candidates, i.e., those who represent the target population and are willing to participate.

To fix this issue, the best way is to leverage social media and target your audience based on demographics, age, location, and other factors.

  1. Data analysis issues

We know that generative research provides you with qualitative data. Analyzing such data can be tough as it can be biased or inaccurate. Therefore, to get the best out of it, you need to employ special analysis methods, such as thematic analysis involving multiple people.

  1. Resource Intensive

This type of research is resource-intensive. Conducting detailed interviews, making a note of user opinions, comparing the data, analyzing it, and whatnot consumes a lot of time and effort.

However, once you go through this hassle, you can save a lot of money down the line for your business.

Best Practices and Tools for Generative Research

Throughout the generative research process, I have focussed on several crucial elements, such as types of methods, duration of the research, the research goal, and much more.

One add-on thing that I need to highlight is that if you follow certain tips, the overall process can be a little simpler for you.

  1. Use multiple methods
  2. Rope in the stakeholders in the process
  3. Keep your objectives clear
  4. Organize the data
  5. Add some quantitative questions in the interviews

Surveys and questionnaires are the ideal picks to get the best out of your research.

Final Words - Begin Your Research With Qwary!

Throughout the article, we have discussed how generative research can be super useful in gathering user opinions and creating market-fit products. However, when it comes to actually conducting the research, the type of resources plays a critical role.

Whether you are collecting qualitative data or quantitative data, resources play a crucial role. User surveys can be the best way to begin your generative research. They help you select the right candidates for the interviews and bring out the required information.

Qwary curates the best surveys for you. Along with premade surveys and templates, you can get instant interactive insights. So, get in touch now!


  1. What is generative research?

Just like its name, generative research helps understand the user’s perspectives, opinions, needs, and preferences in depth. It involves studying the user reactions in their daily life and curating products around it.

  1. How can independent developers do generative research?

Independent developers can conduct generative research with the process described above. However, if you want to save time, you can rely on user research surveys where you can add all your open-ended questions.

  1. What is hypothesis-generating research?

In such a study, a researcher uses the obtained data to find relevant patterns and relationships to create an hypothesis. This hypothesis is further tested in an study.

  1. How do we generate and refine research ideas?

The best way to generate and refine research ideas is by conducting an exploratory research like generative research. Select a topic and participants, conduct the research, collect and organize the data. Refine the data and document the findings.

  1. What can researchers do after they conduct a study and generate their conclusions?

The things that a researcher needs to do after conducting a research are re-examining the data, fetch feedback, elevate relevancy of your research and create a outline for your research paper.