Think aloud technique: A brief introduction

By Gordon Rugg

This is one in a series of tutorials about reports. “Reports” in this sense involve respondents reporting what they’re doing or thinking, or what someone else is doing or thinking. We’ll post a separate overview of the different varieties of report.

The topic of this article is think-aloud technique, which involves getting the respondent to think aloud while performing a task.

This is particularly useful if you’re trying to find out what’s in the respondent’s mind while they’re doing a task, and for finding out about people’s reactions to a product or a behaviour that they witness. For instance, you can show people mockups of software or of a product you’re designing, and get at information which would be missed by interviews and questionnaires.

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Reports: A brief overview

By Gordon Rugg

This article is about a range of techniques which involve people reporting on actions, thoughts or rationale. It’s not about writing technical reports, etc.

These techniques evolved independently, rather than as a systematic toolbox. However, in practice they complement each other neatly. The table below shows how they fit together.

Time Technique(s) Main knowledge issues involved
Future Scenarios Knowing the unknowable
Present Think-aloud Short Term Memory/working memory
  • Critical Incident Technique
  • Hard Case Technique
Active and passive biases in human memory

This article describes how these techniques can be used systematically to identify and clarify clients’ requirements, with particular reference to legal and practical constraints.

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