I spent the first half of my thesis year documenting numerous phases of convergent and divergent thinking gathered from secondary resources including books, scholarly articles, and many psychology/sociology studies.
With no topic in mind, I began my research in what I love most: data and social psychology. While many avenues led nowhere, some led to more ideas and more possibilities. Here is a mind map of those first few months of thesis:
After months of research a potential avenue formed, changed, then formed again: How can data be used to form relationships?
This was still vague and the design solutions were limitless. While I had spent months diving deep in secondary research, I knew that the key to my design would be in my primary research- the insights that I would find by talking to real people to uncover nuance, unmet needs, and frustrations. Through several conversations with friends, family, and classmates, a pattern began to emerge: many conversations revolved around online dating and relationships formed through the internet. Next, I wanted to interview people specifically about internet-based relationships.
To conduct any interviews I would need to get an IRB proposal approved. Once I got approved, I was ready to interview people about their close relationships and how they formed.
The IRB process taught me to be meticulous about my research. It also taught me to be sure I was asking the right questions. Here is a sample of the IRB proposal I submitted:
After several interviews, I cycled through several potential ideas for how design can help create relationships. Most people that I ran these through responded well to one- an app that leads you to where you have the most friend-making and relationship-finding potential.
You can see some other potential avenues and read in-depth interviews in my full thesis doc below.