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of desiGn

PhD Research and Thesis



Credit Hours


Introduces the theory and methods of behavioral observation, description, and analysis.

This course will introduce students to theory and methods of behavioral observation, description, and analysis. Students will use a variety of techniques derived from social and behavioral psychology and anthropology to develop useful, powerful approaches to solving modern design and business problems. Readings and theory are integrated with observational fieldwork exercises to provide rich learning experiences both in and outside of the classroom.

Learning Objectives

  • Develop a strong understanding of how different information gathering techniques impact data perspectives and analytic outcomes.
  • Gain hands-on experience building fieldwork skills using a variety of tools and planning and executing a variety of field research activities.
  • Establish a theoretical understanding of human cultural processes, behavioral schemas, and how to develop frameworks from observational data.

Learning Outcomes

Students of Observing Users will demonstrate new skills for planning and executing field research activities ranging from behavioral observation to interviewing. They will be able to understand the outcomes of other people’s research and the kinds of implications that can be drawn from different approaches to user and design research.

Format & Grading

Each class usually has a lecture-discussion component and critique component. In the first half of class we typically discuss the assigned readings and other salient issues. In the second half, review work with an eye toward developing technique, building skills and talking through alternatives. This course is graded based upon class participation (1/3), completion and experimentation with research techniques during field exercises (1/3) and completion of final project (1/3).

Enrollment Restrictions

No prerequisites. This course is open to all Institute of Design students.