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Do Background Research

5-10 important facts, themes and stories that you didn't know before and a visual describing your problem space

DFA UC Davis
5-10 important facts, themes, and stories that you didn't know before and a visual describing your problem space


Secondary research is the act of collecting information from existing and reputable sources. Many groups and organizations have been creating social impact for years and good designers build on the work of others. To make a real impact in the world, your team needs to know what is out there. Build a holistic understanding of your problem context from the facts, stories, themes, and existing solutions from your secondary research.
Be on the lookout for the major components on the graphic above during your secondary research! You will use them to help form questions in user interviews and observations.
Always remember to document and share your research with the team. Your team will revisit the secondary research often as you progress throughout the project, so keep your findings organized!


1. Download the Problem Context one-pager to remember major things to look out for in your secondary research!
  • Locating reputable sources is one of the difficult parts of secondary research. Always be cognizant that your sources may come with an agenda and biases.
2. Find 5+ slap stats to share with your team
  • Read academic articles, find a relevant book, or look for newspaper articles
  • Look for interesting facts, stories, themes, and slap stats - statistics that are so shocking and persuasive they seem to slap you in the face when you encounter them!
3. Identify stakeholders, organizations, and places within your problem space
  • Map out which stakeholders are affected by the problem, which organizations involves them, and where you can find them.
  • Analyze 1-2 existing solutions to understand what is out in the field
4. Look for what has been done in the field, if it worked or not, and what could be improved to identify opportunity gaps - gaps of the problem neglected or poorly addressed by the current solutions.
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