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I handed in my research proposal to my professor and he said he was not sure how my interview questions were going to get at my high level research questions. He asked me to map my interview questions to my research questions and it was such a valuable experience and even made me tweak my research questions. Take a look below (sorry about the layout but this really had to be in table form to best understand the power behind it’s use.

Microblogs for Learning and Performance Improvement Research Questions Table
The study questions begin with collecting some light demographic information, followed by a few questions based on critical incident technique. None of these questions are listed herein. The questions below are the specific questions that are in the last part of the interview protocol.
Research Question Study Questions Sample Responses Reason for the Question
Does using a microblog in the workplace allow employees to become more aware of what each other is doing (help uncover context)? Has using Yammer changed your level of awareness with regards to what your colleagues are doing? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely. Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them now—feel like I am in the “know” in terms of what everyone is working on and that is visibility that I did not have before using Yammer. It is visibility that causes more interactions and has created more connectedness.” Reason for question: To validate whether or not Yammer provides people with more visibility into what others are doing. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance)Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance? (such as in a community of practice) Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message? For example, have you ever read a status update from a colleague and realized you can help them; perhaps you had a great article or tool or information to share that was relevant? If not, why don’t you think you have ever reached out or been contacted?
a. If so, can you give me an example?
a. What was the result of the interaction? For example, did you receive some new information? Did you receive assistance with a task at hand?
b. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you or your colleague looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
c. How relevant was this information to what you and/or your colleague were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
d. How much did you and/or do you think your colleague valued the interaction? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
e. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
Possible response: “I read a status message once and realized that a colleague and I were working on two very similar projects for the same client, so we helped each other out.” Reason for the question: the questions sheds light on two research questions, ascertaining if people learn and receive performance support through the use of microblogs and if people reach out to each other to help each other with any kind of frequency–which could be considered a community of practice.
Research Question Study Questions Sample Responses Reason for the Question
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? For example, have you ever read a status update that gave you a tip, or had an attachment you could use that assisted you in some way with something you were studying or working on? If not, why don’t you think you ever benefitted from the updates of people you follow?
a. If so, can you give me an example?
b. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
c. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
d. How much did you value the update? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
e. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always
Possible response: “I read status messages all the time that have links to interesting articles and tools.” Reason for the question: this question is focused on the benefits from reading a status message and can help ascertain if Yammer provides on-the-job learning opportunities and/or performance support that are not related to interacting with someone else, and if so how did that benefit come about. In addition, if there was a benefit, how much was it valued and how often does it happen. It will be interesting to ascertain whether the value in Yammer is more about connecting with others or receiving content that is interesting or useful in some way. What is the relationship between the relevance of the content to the task at hand with respect to the person’s valuing the content. How do Yammer users find good content—do they proactively search or just reactively receive?
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using Yammer contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?   Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked these questions indirectly, at the end of the interview it is time to ask them directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.
Does the reading of status messages posted on a microblog lead to employees learning something new or receiving assistances with their jobs? (therefore fostering learning and performance) (Question applies only to managers of people) How much has using Yammer contributed to your team’s learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your team’s effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your team’s learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?   Reason for question: Is there a discrepancy between how the manager’s perceive Yammer and how individual contributors perceive Yammer. The goal of the study is to convince corporations to use tools like Yammer, perceptions of both audiences will be critical to achieve this.
Will the use of microblogs result in people feeling like they are part of communities where they can reach out to each other for assistance? (such as in a community of practice) Does using Yammer make you feel like you are part of a community of colleagues to whom you can turn to for help on the job? If not, why don’t you think using Yammer makes you feel like you can reach out for help? Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them now—and find it easier to reach out when I need help. I also now know more in terms of who I should turn to for what type of question–this is because of the visibility I have had into what they do on a daily basis.” Reason for question: To ascertain the effect Yammer has on a person’s network. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.
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The interview protocol was designed to solicit rich feedback from participants. To this end, following demographic questions, critical incident technique (CIT) was used. For over 50 years the CIT has been and continues to be an effective exploratory and investigative tool that is widely used in qualitative research methods (Butterfield, Borgen, Amundson, & Maglio, 2005; Chell, 1998; Woolsey, 1986). After the critical incident questions allow participants to describe their experiences open-endedly without any kind of set structure, specific questions follow that aim at uncovering the critical behavior sets that would allow a determination to be made regarding the research questions. The interview protocol contains a mix of open-ended and close-ended questions. A 5-point Likert scale was used for some of the close-ended questions. Researchers deem 5-point Likert scales as a more sound mechanism to use for current research than that of 7-point or 10-point scales (Dawes, 2008). The interview will be administered via telephone; responses will be coded by the interviewer into a spreadsheet that will later be used for data analysis.

As part of the interview protocol, the researcher will ask the following questions:

General Questions

  1. What is your age?
  2. In what industry do you work?
  3. How many people are employed by your organization?
  4. Are you an individual contributor, a manager or a director (manager of managers)? If management, how large is the team that reports to you?
  5. How frequently do you use Yammer—including reading updates and writing updates?
  6. How long have you been a Yammer user?

Reason for the questions in this section: to see if any patterns exist for different demographics of participants, for example, did managers find Yammer more or less effective than employees? Do those who use it daily find it more or less effective than those who use it less frequently?

Critical Incident Questions

Reason for the questions in this section: to understand the spectrum of experiences from good, to typical, to bad. This understanding paints a picture of overall usage. It is effective to ask these questions before the specific ones to prevent the specific questions from constraining participants’ responses.

  1. Describe a typical experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “I update Yammer a couple times daily and when I do, I take a peek at what my colleagues are doing—often, I find myself responding to a status update a colleague has posted because I am interested in what they are working on, or because I may be able to help them. Sometimes we follow up with each other and other times I just note interesting things that they are doing.”

Reason for question: this question can help uncover the most common uses, “typical” uses with microblogs and will inform if there are any benefits to using Yammer and if there are, when are they likely to happen? If they happen during a typical experience that would allow us to draw conclusions and generalize to all Yammer users, if they only happen during a “very good experience” example, then we can conclude that this is a “best practice” behavior that doesn’t happen often.

  1. Describe a very good experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “Once I was on maternity leave and I saw an update from a colleague and she was working on a project of mine while I was away, so I reached out to her to see if there was anything she needed in terms of assistance.”

Reason for question: Again, this question brings to light what a good experience looks like and ascertains how often such experiences take place. If a good experience only happens infrequently, is it still worth it to use Yammer?

  1. Describe a bad experience you have had with Yammer. How often do you have such experiences? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always. Given this example, how valuable do you find the use of Yammer? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely

Possible response: “I was working on a top secret project that I was not supposed to reveal even to colleagues and I accidentally wrote a status message about it revealing the nature of the project.

Reason for question: This research looks to identify how useful Yammer can be but what about the opposite? How damaging can using, or misusing Yammer be and how does that effect the perceived value of the tool.

Specific Questions

10.  Have you ever reached out to someone because of their status message, or has someone ever reached out to you because of your status message? For example, have you ever read a status update from a colleague and realized you can help them; perhaps you had a great article or tool or information to share that was relevant? If not, why don’t you think you have ever reached out or been contacted?

Possible response: “I read a status message once and realized that a colleague and I were working on two very similar projects for the same client, so we helped each other out.”

Reason for the question: to ascertain if people reach out to each other to help, this would be the start of a community of practice. In addition, how often does it happen and how much is it valued compared to how relevant it was?

  1. If so, can you give me an example?
  2. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you or your colleague looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  3. How relevant was this information to what you and/or your colleague were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  4. How much did you and/or do you think your colleague valued the interaction? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  5. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always

11.  Has using Yammer changed your network of colleagues who you can turn to for help in any way? If not, why don’t you think using Yammer has changed the network?

Possible response: “Yes, I feel more connected to them know—feel like I am in the “know” in terms of what everyone is working on and that is visibility that I did not have before using Yammer. It is visibility that causes more interactions and has created more connectedness.”

Reason for question: To ascertain the effect Yammer has on a person’s network. In an unpublished pilot, the use of Twitter brought people in existing networks closer together. By giving insight into what each person was doing—it opened up opportunities to work together and learn from each other.

12.  Have you ever benefitted from reading a status updates that did not result in you reaching out to a colleague or a colleague reaching out to you? For example, have you ever read a status update that gave you a tip, or prompted you to reach out to a colleague for help, or had an attachment you could use that assisted you in some way with something you were studying or working on? If not, why don’t you think you ever benefitted from the updates of people you follow?

Possible response: “I read status messages all the time that have links to interesting articles and tools.”

Reason for the question: unlike the questions using CIT, this question is focused on the benefits from reading a status message and can help ascertain if Yammer provides on-the-job learning opportunities and/or performance support that are not related to interacting with someone else, and if so how did that benefit come about. In addition, if there was a benefit, how much was it valued and how often does it happen. It will be interesting to ascertain whether the value in Yammer is more about connecting with others or receiving content that is interesting or useful in some way. What is the relationship between the relevance of the content to the task at hand with respect to the person’s valuing the content. How do Yammer users find good content—do they proactively search or just reactively receive?

  1. If so, can you give me an example?
  2. How did the interaction take place? For example: Where you looking for an answer to a question and searched the status messages, were you following a hashtag, or did you just happened to stumble across an interesting update?
  3. How relevant was this information to what you were working on at the time—the task at hand? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  4. How much did you value the update? Not at all, not very much, somewhat, very much, extremely
  5. How often does this happen? Never, infrequently, sometimes, frequently, always

13.  In general, if you think about all the times someone has reached out to offer a helping hand, or you read a status message that helped you with the work at hand, how much has using Yammer contributed to your learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?

Reason for question: up until this point, participants have been asked these questions indirectly, at the end of the interview it is time to ask them directly to see how aware they are of the benefits of the tool, and if their responses are consistent.

14.  (Question applies only to managers of people) How much has using Yammer contributed to your team’s learning and development? 1-5 (5 being greatest contribution) To your team’s effectiveness and efficiency? If not, why don’t you think Yammer has contributed to your team’s learning and development or effectiveness and efficiency?

Reason for question: Is there a discrepancy between how the manager’s perceive Yammer and how individual contributors perceive Yammer. The goal of the study is to convince corporations to use tools like Yammer, perceptions of both audiences will be critical to achieve this.

15.  What would you recommend to improve Yammer’s functionality with regard to helping you and others on the job?

Sample response: Allow more functionality in terms of sorting through status messages—organization

Reason for question: Interesting to find out what functionality users recommend and if functionality enhancement requests would steer the tool more toward knowledge management or not. This researcher postulates that the answers will in fact lead more toward knowledge management.

This is a section of a research proposal, to read more, go to the Table of Contents

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