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Pre-tasks are exercises which are conducted in advance of research sessions. The purpose of a pre-task varies so always make sure you understand what the aim of pre-tasks are before you start recruitment. Typically a pre-task could be a simple warm-up exercise before a group, a diary or scrapbook to create a log of usage or behaviour, either in a physical format or digitally, or a visit to a store to refresh participants’ memories or make comparisons between stores. Pre-tasks help researchers understand the lifestyles and motivations of participants before meeting them. You should always make participants aware of any pre-tasks at the recruitment stage because if participants are not willing to complete such tasks they would disqualify.

Check the format of any pre-task e.g. if a task is in PowerPoint, not all participants may be able to open it and alternative formats may need to be supplied such as providing print copies of a task.

If a pre-task requires downloading a mobile app, check with clients which version of a mobile operating system is required. Older operating systems may not be compatible with all client-supplied mobile apps.

Pre-tasks are usually a major contribution to qualitative research findings. They are included in project analysis sessions and researchers will often include snapshots of the pre-task responses in final reports to end clients. Pre-tasks are usually incentivised separately and may appear to be optional but they are usually mandatory to complete and this, along with the importance of completing pre-tasks for any overall project, should be explained to participants. It is also important to accurately inform participants how long they are expected to spend on a pre-task.  For example, if it is a three day diary and they will be required to spend twenty minutes a day, participants must be told  of this commitment at recruitment stage and agree to undertake it in order to qualify for the session.

Post-tasks are exercises that are conducted after research sessions. All participants may be expected to complete such tasks or clients may select a few participants to take part. Check the arrangements for post-tasks before recruitment commences in order that any post-task commitments are relayed to participants at recruitment.  Also check when and how participant payment for post-tasks will be made.