Research Methods

Experimental methods

Exercise 7: Experimental methods

The exercise requires you to design and conduct an experiment, and then analyse the data collected and write a report on it.

The experiment

Your experiment should compare two or more different text entry methods for mobile devices. For example, you could compare multi-tap and T9 text entry on almost any mobile phone. It would also be interesting to compare the times with a normal keyboard, a thumb keyboard, a chord keyboard, an on-screen virtual keyboard or a stroke-based system such as Unistrokes, Graffiti or ShapeWriter. You could also consider systems like Dasher, but that might require some installation work.

You will need to recruit participants for your study. It would obviously be better if these were not computer scientists! You will probably need about three to five participants, each of whom will need to enter data for three to five sessions each taking 20 to 40 seconds. However, the point of the exercise is to show that you know how to conduct an experimental investigation, the actual results are less important.

It would be sensible to include a questionnaire in your study to assess the participants' prior experience of the techniques.

This is research involving human participants, so ethical considerations need to be addressed. The Computer Laboratory's Ethics Committee has agreed that this exercise is straightforward and you are not required to make a formal application to run the experiment. However, you should not involve participants who are minors or otherwise vulnerable, you should make it clear that all participants are free to withdraw at any time, you should not offer any compensation for participating, and you should not keep any data in a form that would allow individuals to be identified. Please contact Peter Robinson if you have any questions or if any problems arise.


Your written submission should include:

  • Report on the experiment in about 1000 words consisting of
    • Method
      • Participants
      • Apparatus
      • Procedure
      • Design
    • Results
    • Discussion
  • Actual data collected
  • Transcript of the data analysis

The data and transcript of its analysis should also be made available on your Computer Laboratory web pages. State the URL in your report.

Hint: Use a secure file transfer program such as WinSCP to transfer your files to a sub-directory of the public_html directory in your home directory on (for the CL) or (for the PWF).

The deadline for submission is 12:00 noon on the Monday after the end of the Michaelmas Term.


This exercise accounts for 20% of the credit associated with the Research Methods module.