Before we explore design research methods and Design Heuristics in more detail, we must first discuss ethics.

Using an ethical approach to your research and design activities ensures the safety and well-being of your participants (people taking part in your activity), but also you and colleagues running the activity.

Larger organisations who take part in research involving human participants have a designated group or committee to review procedures (the recipe) used within any activities involving human participants. 

This group considers a number of issues:

  • Aim and objectives of the human-based activity, the research questions answered (is the work needed?).
  • Awareness of vulnerabilities of participant and activity operator / investigator.
  • Working with Young people and children.
  • Information for the participant regards the purpose of the activity.
  • A consent form.
  • Making payments to Participants.
  • Data protection.
  • Rigour, respect and responsibility of the operators / investigators.
  • Invasive / non-invasive.
  • Appropriate health and safety measures, including aftercare.

Ethical protocols should be followed with any design research inquiry.  There are a number of detailed references that provide guidance on the ways in which both participant and research operators can be safe guarded, and provide templates for an ethical approach to mixed research methods (Cohen et al 2007, Wilson et al 1995). 

Useful links

Council of International Organizations of Medical Sciences and World Health Organisation, International Ethical Guidelines: (

World Medical Association, declaration of Helsinki (originally signed in 1964), is a statement of agreed principles to applied in medical and research practice:


A full ethical approval form can be found at the following website:


Cohen, L., L.Mannion, and K.Morrison 2007. Research methods in education. 6th ed. London, New York: Routledge.

Wilson, J. R., and E. N. Corlett. 1995. Evaluation of human work: A practical ergonomics methodology. 2nd ed. London: Taylor & Francis.