Tools and Tips for HCD+AYSRH Research

September 27, 2023

Navigating the field of sexual and reproductive health requires particular sensitivity, as does the collection and analysis of the delicate and often very personal data that goes with it. This requires deep consideration for your research participants and strict adherence to ethical standards and principles.

Together with our partners at PATH and YUX Design, we held a webinar to discuss the appropriate attitudes and interpersonal skills essential to successfully lead and conduct research on adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) using human-centered design (HCD) approaches. 

Below are some of the tips and best practices that were shared by our guest speakers from the YUX Academy and Marie Stopes International (MSI): 

Recruitment of qualitative research participants

  • Ensure you utilize various channels like schools and social networks to recruit participants.
  • Work with organizations to find suitable participants based on established criteria.
  • Establish relationships with associations and schools for confidential access to target populations.

Acquiring consent for AYSRH research

  • Use easy-to-understand language to obtain informed consent from participants to ensure that they fully understand what they are agreeing to.
  • Clearly explain to the participants the data collection, usage, storage, and erasure and disposal process through the consent process.
  • Revise consent if the research protocols change and ensure participants are re-informed and have agreed with the new direction.

Interview process

  • The interview process should not be too long — they should last between 60-120 minutes in order to collect in-depth data, while also being respectful of the participant’s time.
  • Ensure participants are comfortable, informed, and aware of the non-judgmental nature of the interview.
  • Prepare a guide with open-ended, non-leading questions, and avoid interrogation-style questioning.
  • Remain flexible to the direction of the conversation and explore emerging challenges and any solutions that may arise.
  • Have both an interviewer and note-taker present during interviews to ensure comprehensive data collection.

Observation techniques to use 

  • Non-participatory observations (observing participants without actively taking part in the research) could help with understanding diverse environmental contexts.
  • Ensure the researcher’s presence is as unobtrusive as possible to prevent altering participant behavior.
  • Use codes to anonymize observed data and maintain confidentiality.
  • Limit observation duration to avoid intrusion into personal lives.

Navigating focus group dynamics

  • Create small homogeneous groups (3-10 people) relevant to the study to foster discussion.
  • Choose a relatable moderator to create a safe and inclusive space and to avoid the emergence of unequal power dynamics.
  • Include diverse perspectives and ensure everyone participates actively.
  • Use open-ended questions to stimulate discussion and gather varied opinions.

Understanding power dynamics 

  • Acknowledge power imbalances and avoid imposing researcher authority.
  • Be aware of societal, gender, and cultural dynamics influencing interactions.
  • Create a safe environment for participants to express themselves without fear of judgment.

Addressing bias

  • Be mindful of personal biases and remain open-minded during research.
  • Avoid leading questions and confirmation bias.
  • Reassure participants of confidentiality and emphasize that there are no right nor wrong answers.

Handling personal data

  • Collect minimal personal data necessary for research and anonymize it using codes.
  • Protect participant confidentiality by limiting access to personal data within the research team.
  • Erase any recordings or identifiable data once it has been transcribed and anonymized.


  1. Case study: ‘La Famille idéale’
  2. Watch the Webinar recording in French

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