In February, my colleague Kathleen Smeaton and I ran a workshop at Information Online 2019 in Sydney.

The workshop was called: Building an engagement toolkit and looked at using research methods to understand problems and engage with customers.

Good services and programs are carefully designed to meet the needs of users and are proactively evaluated to foster continuous improvement. Engagement tools and strategies can help you to understand your users so that you can design products, programs and services that they want and need. These tools and strategies can also be used at the other end of the design lifecycle to help you evaluate your activities, which can help you to build on your successes (and avoid repeating failures!), and help you tell the story of your organisation’s impact.

This workshop drew from our experience with a range of methodologies to help participants build an engagement toolkit. We focused on ways to get to the heart of people’s experiences of information and technology. We looked at tools and strategies that help practitioners to understand users, their needs, how they experience information and technology, and how they experience services and programs.

We looked at

  • Designing strategies that support the development and evaluation of programs, products and services in information organisations.
  • Strategies for collecting evidence, with a focus on qualitative data.
  • Strategies for analysing data.

In this post, we’ve included all the workshop materials and references for participants.

Slide deck

The monster slide deck for the workshop is available on Slideshare (embedded below), or you can download a handout version too.

Research strategy template

Download the research strategy design template.

Find out more about…

Defining problems for investigation

Essential reading

  • Booth, A. (2004). Formulating answerable questions. In A. Booth & A. Brice (Eds.), Evidence Based Practice for Information Professionals: A handbook (pp. 61‐70). London: Facet Publishing.

Frameworks for problem solving

Essential readings

  • Brown, T. (2008). Design thinking. Harvard Business Review, 86(6), 84‐92.
  • Eldredge, J. (2000). Evidence based librarianship: An overview. Bull Medical Library Association, 88(4), 289‐302.
  • Howard, Z., & Davis, K. (2011). From Solving Puzzles to Designing Solutions: Integrating Design Thinking into Evidence Based Practice. Evidence Based Library and Information Practice6(4), 15-21.


Essential reading

  • Kvale, S. and Brinkmann, S. (2007). InterViews: learning the craft of qualitative research interviewing. 2nd Ed. London, UK : Sage Publications

Recommended reading


Essential reading

Braun, V. & Clarke, C. (2006) Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3:2, 77-101. Don’t have access to the journal? Access an author copy.

Additional reading

  • Ayres, L. Thematic coding and analysis, in Given, L. M. (2008). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Sage. Available via Sage Research Methods Online.
  • Julien, H. Content analysis, in Given, L. M. (2008). The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods. Sage. Available via Sage Research Methods Online.

Want more?

In the workshop, we very briefly mentioned alternative approaches to reporting on research, including infographics, personas (or probably more accurately, archetypes inspired by the UX persona format), and impact narratives. Here are some resources about those topics. 


Personas are used in marketing and user experience to report on user types. We think they are a useful way of reporting on user research, either as standalone artefacts, or as part of a formal report or presentation. We suggest taking inspiration from the user experience persona to describe and provide insights about the customer groups you serve, or to report on user research.

Essential reading


Infographics can either supplement your reporting or be used as an independent reporting tool. We are wired for visual information, and infographics can be a really useful way of communicating research insights. For more on infographics, why they’re useful and how to create them, you might like to review the two videos below, which Kate created for one of her courses.

Information is visual

DIY infographics

Tips, tricks and tools for making your own infographics.

Impact narratives

Impact narratives are a format for reporting used in research, where the impact of research is communicated. Impact narratives are generally short case studies and we believe the research impact case study format can be adapted to provide compelling reports on library activities.

Essential reading

Reference list

We cited all of the above resources in one way or another during the workshop. Here are the things we cited or quoted that didn’t make our essential or recommended extra readings lists. But they’re still good stuff and great sources if you’re interested in exploring any of the topics further.

CDC. (n.d.) Selecting data collection methods [PDF]. Retrieved April 12, 2016.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: a practical guide through qualitative analysis. London: Sage Publications. (Note there’s now a second edition, which has some useful additions, but this is the version cited in the slides.)

Churucca, S. (2013, June 28). DIY user personas. UX Lady. Retrieved February 7, 2017.

Clifford, S. (n.d.) Tipsheet – Qualitative interviewing [PDF]. Duke Initiative on Survey Methodology. Retrieved February 8, 2017.

Davis. K. (2007). AskNow Instant Messaging: innovation in virtual reference. Australian Library Journal, 56(2), 152-174.

Delaney, C. and Sterry, T. (2014). Enhancing proto-personas with characterization. [Slide deck for LeanUX NYC 2014]. Retrieved February 8, 2017.

Design Kit. (n.d.) Methods. Retrieved February 8, 2017.

Flick, U. (2014).Chapter 1 Mapping the field. The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis. Sage. Available via Sage Research Methods Online.

Marshall, C. and Rossman, G. (2014).Chapter 4 Data collection methods. Designing Qualitative Research. Sage. pp. 97-150. Available via Sage Research Methods Online.

Newman, D. (2010). The squiggle of design. Retrieved February 8, 2017.

NHMRC (2014). Chapter 3.1: Qualitative methods. In NHMRC (2015). National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research. Retrieved April 12, 2016 from

NSF. (2002). Data collection methods: some tips and comparisons. In NSF. (2002). The 2002 User-Friendly Handbook for Project Evaluation. Retrieved April 12, 2016.

University of Surrey (n.d.). Introduction to research. Retrieved September 4, 2016.

Widrich, L. (2012.). The science of storytelling: what listening to a story does to our brains. Retrieved July 30, 2018 from