User research projects vary in scope, where they are on the scale depends on the goal.
On one end of the scale, it’s the strategic research.
- Research goals and study questions are broad.
- Methods are generative.
- Triangulation is focused on enriching the found patterns.
- Insights are relevant for multiple contexts, teams, organizations.
- New learning is key.
- Findings are relevant for a longer period of time, possibly multiple years.
- Detailed documentation is important.
On the other end of the scale, it’s tactical research.
- Research goals and study questions are narrow and focused on deep details.
- Methods are evaluative.
- Triangulation is focused on solid validation.
- Insights are relevant to a single context or team.
- Validation is key.
- Findings are relevant only in the current phase of the project, possibly as rationalization, supporting information until the end of the project.
- Documentation should be as lightweight as possible, if any (might fit the team better if results are acted upon on the spot).
This article by Peter Parkes talks about evergreen and disposable insights that might be an even better terminology.
- Disposable insights: fast (discover and act in 1-2 sprints), narrow focused (on a screen or interaction), mostly diagnostic research.
- Evergreen insights: continuous (no one shot action), broad focused (entire product), discovery type of research.
He writes that evergreen insights can emerge also from diagnostic research (halo insights), just unexpected pieces of knowledge.
In practice research is usually somewhere in between, even deeply within delivery, within a usability test there is an opportunity to learn something new that benefits the team on the long term. While during generative explorations there might be information that a team can act on right away.
Usually collecting tactical data is more common, as teams and organizations see the immediate benefit of it. But based on the above collecting more strategic data while doing tactical research can be also done, for example asking a few general questions before a usability test.
Sometimes the shelf life of information will be only clear after some time has passed, so level of documentation should be also decided how difficult it was to obtain the data.