7 Tips & Tricks For a Smooth Lab Experience
Failure or complications in studies most often occur due to small mistakes that could have easily been avoided. Often they happen because people didn’t know about basic tricks to avoid issues.
Running a study has a lot of moving parts, like different technologies, different hardware pieces, new respondents, operators and a new study design.
It is important to minimize risks to ensure the highest likelihood of a great study outcome. The following are seven things that you should keep in mind in order to have your next study in your lab run smoothly and successfully:
1. Simplify technology setup
For both hardware and software, it is recommended to use as few vendors as possible. If you have many different devices, in this way you can make sure that they interact well with each other and all the devices are compatible. It might be a setup that is proven to be running well.
Furthermore, in the ideal setup, everything would be integrated into one single software. Having to switch between different operating systems or also between different computers can cause difficulties. It is, for instance, easier to train new students on a single software than on multiple.
Having a single software platform decreases the amount of training needed, simplifies the setup and takes out the risk of human error. Also in case of problems and support issues, it is easier to deal with one vendor and have a direct contact person than to be pushed around between vendors because nobody feels responsible.
Important: Switching or updating a software should always be between studies, before or after but never in the middle of a running study. Try not to change anything while running a study. Pretests can also help you avoid some of these pitfalls.
2. Have optimal Environment and Lighting
Depending on the sensors you are using, you need to have an environment that does not create noise and introduce unnecessary artifacts to data streams.
Each setup will have its own caveats, but it is always best to keep noise to a minimum. When using EEG, for instance, you need a room where you are not exposed to any kind of noise including electric noise picked up from the lighting in a room. For eye tracking and facial expression analysis, lighting conditions are essential.
- backlighting – will result in poor contrast in the face region resulting in poor data for facial expression data
- direct sunlight coming through windows – sunlight contains the infrared light that will impact the quality of the eye tracking measurements
3. Have enough people run the study
The number of people needed to run a study successfully highly depends on the protocol of the study itself. Sometimes the protocol is easy enough and then you only need one operator per participant, but sometimes it is complex and you may need three.
With complex setups like EEG, it is always good to have one more person so that the second person can help when needed. On the other hand, for something more simple like GSR (Galvanic Skin Response) you don’t need a second person unless you just don’t want to do it on your own.
The number of people that should be involved is tied to the kind of research you want to do and what kind of sensors you want to use.
4. Ensure training
It is essential that people who start at the lab are trained on the systems used in the lab so that they have a certain level of knowledge that allows them to run a study smoothly.
Generally, training are important for any kind of position in the lab. Having to train people during the testing process is a disadvantage and usually requires more time and effort than needed with solid training beforehand.
5. Always use templates
Always have templates! Anything that you need to instruct somebody on or any documentation that is associated with setting up a study or running a study at the lab is the most important thing to have. Try to have templates for every step of the research process.
Documentations are very important in institutions such as a university where research assistants at most stay for four years because once a person leaves and they hire a different person, that person needs to know everything from where to order consumables from to whom to contact for support.
Therefore, make sure to have some kind of documentation about anything from management to study execution.
6. Use reliable connection options
Many biosensors depend on either a USB or Bluetooth connection. With USB, you have to be aware of what version is recommended for the particular device. Often the device is tuned to a particular version so it will work better on USB 2.0 rather than USB 3.0 or vice versa.
When using Bluetooth, you want to have the best possible connection because otherwise, you might experience connection drops. Therefore, having a short distance between the device and the receiver will remove common Bluetooth connection problems.
A Bluetooth dongle and extension cable can often solve line-of-sight problems with wireless connections.
7. Clean your computer
Don’t have anything on your computer that you don’t need during data collection and make sure to cross out all 7 bullet points of the checklist below before getting started.
- Clean your computer from things you don’t need
- Disable anything securing the computer
- Disconnect from the internet during data collection
- If the internet is needed, verify that the sites are safe and consider using an ethernet cable
- Disable screen saver
- Turn off antivirus
- Disable any pop-ups that could disturb during the experiment
Important: Be in touch with your IT department. You may have network restrictions that keep you from getting up to speed. For example, firewalls can interfere with some lab software.
Finally, when you are running a study you want to minimize the variables and the complexity of the technological setup to minimize the risk of something going wrong. Always try to keep your protocol and the setup as simple as possible!
You are not sure how to set up your lab in the best possible way, you need assistance with selecting the most appropriate sensors for your study or you have any other question regarding biometric research? Don’t hesitate to contact the team at iMotions.