Generative research vs Evaluative research: definition, methods and uses


Table of Contents

What is generative research?


Generative research refers to an in-depth understanding of your customers. Well, mostly in a “humans” point of view and not just “users” point of view. It involves interviewing the customers which gives us an idea about them as individuals, their backgrounds, preference, and everything that goes beyond the relationship of them with your product. 

Generative research takes a step ahead from just knowing how the customers are experiencing our product. It also helps find out how their everyday life is, and believe it is going to help build our future efficient products. It is also referred to as discovery or exploratory research, which quite tells us its nature of observing the world around you and finding opportunities to enhance your product innovation. 

The key to get the best out of generative research is- keep an open mind. Don’t restrict yourself to a certain question or a problem for which you are looking an answer for. Always remember, the more you are open to grasp, the more ideas you will have to innovate your product. This approach is going to help you if you are a product-based brand where the user is wrapped around your product, and not vice versa. 

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Why Generative Research is important?

Well to state the obvious, you have to have good relations with your users. The more they feel involved in your product development, the likely they are to stay connected. And generative research helps you make that “handshake” with your users. It helps you establish a transparency with your users which will make them feel more participated in your product design and development. 

Apart from that, generative research enables you to broaden your sight. How? Apparently it is easy to get trapped inside a square of your product development and its working. But the real ideas lie outside that square, into the real world. What your users are thinking of OTHER THAN your product is just as important. 

And the result of that, generative research really gives us so many reasons to come up with various product ideas. You will know user-problems that you weren’t aware of before. And isn’t that just more opportunities to build efficient products? So let’s say it’s a win win situation. 

Generative Research Methods

After we understood the importance of generative research, let us dive into the ways we can generate information on the users:

  • Discovery interview

According to the Nielsen Norman Group, this is a preliminary phase involving the problem space research, framing the problems and gathering initial direction on the next steps. 

Discovery interviews are important during the exploration phase of the product. It helps you to gather insights about user requirements and experiences while also shedding a light on how their lives can be related to your product. 

You can conduct discovery interviews using some rather open questions, which has a scope of gaining information out of your product square. But how? Let us see the steps:

Step 1: Stakeholder inputs– Get this phase to understand what the product owner wants with the development. Their requirements and their ideas of marketing are taken into consideration. By framing a proper questionnaire, getting these answers won’t be tough. 

Step 2: Convert inputs into research questions– Take the most appropriate interview questions and process them to have useful research questions. These will help you understand the vital areas of development.

Step 3: User interview– In this phase, it is time for the users to express their experience with the products. Be ready to face their problems and try to dissolve them based on their expectations. The questions can be simple ones aimed at understanding the user perspective of the product. 

  • Netnography

Ethnography is when a researcher observes a group of subjects in their natural environment. And Nethnography is nothing but just virtual ethnography. And this transformation happened due to the computerization of everything. While the mains focus remains the same, that is Observation, nethnography has digital observation of the users. Looking out for users’ social media platforms, watching the discussion under a blog post or anywhere, where there is an interaction between users. 

With that being said, let us understand how to perform nethnography:

Step 1: Defining the process– Take time to understand your topic of interest. Read through surveys, researches, forums. Create an image of what and how you want to deal with the study and how you are going to progress further with it. 

Step 2: Select a community– now that you know what you are looking for, get on the internet and OBSERVE. Dive deep into all sorts of threads, discussions, forums, interviews, etc. get to know all these sources and come up with your target groups. 

Step 3: Qualitative data gathering and analysis– Now based on your target audience, generate research questions. “How, what, when, where, why” this set of questions will help you get to the bottom of it and understand what your target audience is dealing with in their everyday life. 

Step 4: Get insights– After you have all the required data, the next comes is gathering insights from it. Look for patterns and habits regarding user behaviour and code them. 

Step 5: Generate solution– Now for the last step, get to the solution. After completely processing your data, and gathering all the necessary insights from it, it is now time to apply those to your product innovation. 

  • Photo collage

A photo collage in generative research refers to asking the users to pick words, pictures, quotes from newspapers, books, magazines, etc. These are going to represent their feelings, emotions and thoughts regarding a product, person, environment or anything for that matter. After gathering the above cut-outs, users are then asked to arrange those in a collage manner. Pretty self-explanatory right?

Well, the main reason behind this out-of-the-box technique is that it is FUN. And what’s a better way to keep customers engaged right. Beyond that, it is said to be more expressive of user opinions and feelings. But how to carry out this process? Let’s see:

Step 1: The component gathering– Here, you are supposed to gather as many components as possible. They can be pictures, words, emoji faces, colours, shapes. These components can represent emotions, feelings, locations, etc. The point is to have everything a user might want to express themselves. Or the other way is to ask them to bring their toolkit. 

Step 2: Creating collage and observation– Once the necessary components are ready, ask users to make a collage depending on the topic and their views about it. Give them 20-30 minutes to put their minds to it. Meanwhile, observe the process. 

Step 3: Interview– This will be a short exercise regarding eh collage. Ask users to explain their design and why did they choose the specific components.

What is Evaluative research?


Also known as evaluation research is a study of evaluating the product or services and gather insights on improving them. This research is implemented during the early phase of the development to jot down new solutions to the problems. 

Now that being said, the implementation of the evaluation research doesn’t stop till the product is launched. The solutions need to be evaluated even after their launch and gain customer perspective. Using surveys and interviews can be useful while carrying out evaluative research. The main goal of this research is to provide valuable insights to the clients, owners, investors and everyone else who are involved in the product development. 

Hence, evaluation research helps you gain knowledge about what can work for the project and what won’t. This will help you pay attention to the detected threats and fix them in the early stages of the development. This research allows us to see to it that the solutions are reaching their target audience and making the impact that they are meant to.

Customer experience

Evaluative Research Methods

As talked about earlier, we can summarize that evaluative research is regarding processing the information and gathering feedback. Let us see two main methods of evaluation research:

  • Quantitative method

Inheriting quantitative research method should give you answers to the questions like:

  • HOW many?
  • WHO was involved?
  • WHAT are the outcomes?
  • WHAT is the price?

You can collect quantitative data using surveys, polls. This method is used to collect information about the experiences of employees, customers and can be conducted through offline and online channels. The offline method is face-to-face interviews and can be quite long and slow. Online surveys are carried out through emails, social media channels with minimum human intervention. 

Quantitative data can be pretty sort to evaluate and can be collected in the form of pre-tests and post-tests. The difference in their data will tell you how your solutions are improving and gaining customer preference. The accuracy of the quantitative outcome depends on how much the sample is representative of the population. It is vital to make sure the framed questions are perfect and exposed to a perfect audience. 

  • Qualitative method

This method is used to reach the levels which are impossible to calculate through quantitative methods. Mainly, the qualitative method is inculcated when the topic needs to be understood deeper. They answer the set of questions like:

  • WHAT is the value?
  • HOW satisfied are you?
  • HOW likely are you to recommend our service?
  • WHAT will improve your experience?
  • WHAT changes would you want us to make?

This study can be done using surveys, observations, focus groups by just asking the right questions. As you can see, the above questions allow the user to express their experience briefly. And that is the catch! Qualitative research is descriptive, as we understood enough, it needs the researcher to evaluate the context of the feedback and come up with a proper understanding of what the user is trying to implicate. 

While interviewing large groups, there is a chance you will come across rather innovative ideas and find solutions right there. But the problem is, it is going to be time-consuming to dig deep into a topic. And how deep is deep enough right? There is no end to the vastness of the research and it generally ends up increasing the costs. 

Which method should you use?

Generative research deals with defining the preferred problem and designing the solutions for it. Evaluative research, on the other hand, deals with evaluating the already existing solution.

Example of when to use generative research:

Use this method when you want to understand your customer as an individual and get to know them. Say you are going to develop a shopping app, you will try to find out how your to-be users are currently dealing with their shopping experience. Get into their environment and find out what the norms are and what they would like to have as a convenience with their shopping experience. 

During this process, you are going to understand their attitudes and preference towards shopping applications. And this will help you build your product accordingly. This product is most likely to hit the market with maximum user satisfaction. And that being said, it is not going to be hard for you to figure out what your customers are going to need more in the future. 

Example of when to use evaluative research:

Use this approach to determine whether your design is meeting the user expectations. 

For the above shopping application, you have now deployed the software in the market and your customers are using it. Your work does not end there. You have to keep the track of user experience. Understand what changes they want and act on them immediately. This means you are optimizing the already existing solution. In a way, upgrading them according to user feedback. 

To conclude the discussion we can say that both the approaches are pretty much different from each other and need to be confused when it comes to “what to use and when”. The answer lies in your development process and what kind of answers you are looking for. 

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco

Explore all the survey question types possible on Voxco


Generative research refers to an in-depth understanding of your customers. Well, mostly in a “humans” point of view and not just a “users” point of view. 

Generative research deals with defining the preferred problem and designing the solutions for it.

Summative evaluative research helps you determine how your design perform overall, once it is in the hands of the customer. Whereas formative generative research is done in the early phase of the production to gather solutions and innovative ideas before the final product is ready.

The best practices of generative research are discovery interview, nethnography and photo collage. Depending on the need of your project, each of them can provide valuable generative outputs.

 Evaluative research is a study of evaluating the product or services and gather insights on improving them. It deals with evaluating the already existing solution.

It is a commonly used research design that deals with structured assessment determining the value of the resources that are entitled to a project.

The two methods of evaluation research are qualitative methods and quantitative methods. As both of them answer various sets of questions, they are important to get the best out of the user experience.

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