An interception survey reflection

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Recruiting participants for field research by “door stopping”, or interception as they perform and behave in a native environment is an opportunity to observe, enquire, and record real-world and spontaneous experiences, behaviours, and attitudes.

Supporting enquiry strategies may include overt observation, surveys, and semi-structured interviews. Resulting data may be quantitative or qualitative as designed. Chisnell (2014) describes intercepting people as exposing our bias in recruiting for user research:

“Who you choose and how you approach them exposes who you are and what you think. What your fears are.”

Intercepting is a discrete method used to recruit research participants spontaneously. Appropriate conversational and social strategies need employed together with data enquiry and recording methods.

Intercepting can exploit intentional ethnographic biases while lack of experience or social fears may expose unintentional biases. Chandler (2014) explores our fear of approaching strangers and strategies to cope. These include quickly making clear what you are doing, that there is no cost or risk, and being mindful of how candidates calculate the value of the time given to you.

Chandler emphasises that when candidates do not want to participate it is not a personal rejection. Rather the research has been rejected. Move on. Successful recruitment and interview dialogue relies on good questioning. Nunnally & Farkas (2016 pp.14-25) propose planning questions according to aims. Their basic structure of a question is:

  • The setup: purpose, what, why, how, when, and where (context).
  • Laddering: building on responses with the why and how.
  • Segue to the next question: making the research conversational (building rapport)

They advise that each question should relate back to the research aims.

Candidates may harbour fears and prejudices that the researcher must plan to mitigate including in how they dress, present, and behave (Chisnell, 2014). Chandler (2014) lists what the candidate may be thinking when a stranger approaches:

  • Who is this person?
  • Are they trying to scam me?
  • Are they going to ask me for money?
  • Are they going to ask me to sign something that I don’t agree with?
  • Am I going to have to figure out how to get rid of them?
  • How long is this going to take?

Once recruited, it is possible participants may change their behaviour in response to being observed (Dixon, Singleton, Straits, 2015, pp.260). They add that, with time the field researcher may establish trust and rapport with the participant who become habituated to the researcher’s presence. The time required is not specified. Rapport can emerge spontaneously during conversation, and habituating? How long does that take?

Reference this post

Godfrey, P. (Year, Month Day). Title. Retrieved , from,


Chandler, C., (2014). Facing your fears: Approaching People For Research. Smashing Magazine. Retrieved November 22, 2018, from

Chisnell, D., (2014, May 8). Talking to strangers in the street: Recruiting by intercepting people. Usability Works. Retrieved November 22, 2018, from

Nunnally, B., and Farkas, D. (2016). UX Research: Practical Techniques for Designing Better Products (1st Edition). Sebastopol, CA, USA: O’Reilly Media.


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