Boost your digital skills

3. Desk research

Track down insights and research that's already out there to build your understanding of the problem

What is it good for?

  • Learning more about the challenge you're working on
  • Learning more about your users
  • Learning what has already been done elsewhere to address the challenge

When to use it

Alongside your user research and after you've created your Knowledge Board

How to use it

You'll be looking at the charity sector, as well as wider afield, to understand the territory and what approaches have been tried already.


There are two types of research activity:

  • Primary research (where you go out and discover stuff yourself)
  • Secondary research (where you review what other people have done)

Desk research is a secondary research activity. It’s not about collecting data. Instead, your job is to review previous research findings so you gain a broad understanding of your field of enquiry.

Focus your attention on what is currently sitting in your Knowledge Board’s 'Think we know' and 'Don't know' columns. Try to be focused and concentrated about your desk research. Start by spending no more than three hours on it.


Consider researching:

  • Internal knowledge. Examine what your own organisation knows. Review the data on your services. Seek to understand what has been tried before.
  • Previous research. The world is full of good research. Make use of it. Use it to answer some of those unknowns on your board.
  • Existing products. Examine existing products and services, their concepts, interactions and experiences. Products and services could exist internally or externally to your organisation. Your research might be very specific or very generic, depending on your scope.

Copy or download the Google Sheet below to track your research.

Note: don't forget to update your Knowledge Board as you go.


Get the tool

Make a copy of the Desk Research Tracking spreadsheet and get started with your desk research: