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Texas A&M University at Qatar

Title: Proposal for Usability Testing Experiment #4 Lab Instructions


Course: ENGL 210.502. Scientific & Technical Writing
Date: 18 June 2015
Name: Ghadeer Al-Haddad

The Topic
The purpose of this project is to do a usability test for the lab manual instructions of Experiment 4 form
course PHY208. In order to help improve the way the instructions are written and organized.
Background and Introduction
I have taken several labs in Texas A&M University. In some of those labs, I have encountered difficulties
understanding the lab manual instructions. When I had my first lab (which was a chemistry lab), I
thought the problem was me. Before starting the experiment, I would listen carefully to the teacher, but
still I found difficulties reading the experiment instructions. The moment I really understand the lab is
when I write the lab report and it becomes clear to me why I have done every step during that lab. In
general, I feel the lab instructions are more to trick us than to instruct us.
Last semester, I had two labs: chemistry and physics labs. I cant say I found difficulties in all of the labs
instructions, but in most of them I did. I remember that my chemistry lab instructor once said something
regarding the lab instructions. She told us to read the lab instructions and write from it our own steps on
a separate paper. She said that she herself do this because she thinks the lab instructions are not well
written. This made it clear for me that it wasnt only my problem. The question is if the teacher feels like
this about the instructions, then what about the students? Why do we have to waste time
understanding instructions just to get the experiment done instead of focusing on the learning and the
purpose?
In one of the physics labs (Experiment 4), my partner and I couldnt get the right connection to our
circuit after we had read the instructions several times. We kept trying to connect the resistors in the
circuit, but the numbers we were getting werent making sense. The last option we had was to ask the
teacher for help. The teacher said she would give as a hint; she drew a circuit and asked us to point to
the connection. I pointed to where it should be and she said it was wrong. I told her I didnt consider my
circuit, and I was answering her question based on what she drew. However, she blamed me that I dont
want to think or work. I told her the lab instructions are not clear and that what I was really feeling but I
dont know why this got her to be mad and shout at me in front of all the class. Maybe I was wrong at
some point, and I think she was blaming me because she thought the problem is in me, the student. I
think she should have also had considered the lab instructions and the students as the audience for the
document or how well the document is intended for students. In the lab, it is not only me who doesnt
like the way the lab instructions are written; many other students feel the same. I chose to improve this
lab (experiment 4) because it was hard for me to understand it, and I got a low grade in it.
Methodology
The method I used to approach my desired result was through doing a usability test. The usability test
asked the students about Experiment 4 instructions. I did that by editing the original paper of the
experiment and I added to it questions in red for students to answer (See Appendix A). There were
questions related to how clear they found each step they are reading and what suggestions they have
for improvement. The type of the usability test was user testing as I asked students from our class and
some from the university to complete the questionnaire.

Project design
The way I conducted the usability test was by asking the audience questions while they read the
instructions of Experiment 4. The people I asked to fill the usability test were small group of people
because this test require around ten minutes. I wanted them to clearly evaluate the paper so they had
to read the instructions while answering the questions. I asked them if they thought the experiment
document considered them as the audience. The usability test was done in the university and through
the email. Six students filled the questionnaire.
Intended audience
The intended audience for my final report is my physics lab instructor because I want to deliver to her
that the problem is not only on the students but can be on the document as well. Im presenting to her
the students feedback regarding the document and telling her my results.
Results
The results of my usability test are provided in my final report. It showed where students had problems
in the lab instruction document. I believe this project is helpful for TAMUQ University as it will improve
the learning outcomes for the labs. For example, the students will care more about learning other than
spending time caring what the instruction wants. It show the lab teacher the problems with the
Experiment 4 lab document which might shift her attention to the lab document instead of the students.
It might make it clear to the student regarding: what certain words means, how long it will take them,
and how to find certain information.
Mirel a specialist in usability stated that: Ideally, usability evaluations are performed after many other
user-centered activities for artifact design and development have already taken place (289). If we
considered before doing the usability test doing some user-centered evaluations, it will help revel the
problems more. This need to be considered when creating the design of the project while considering
the audience of the project. I believe usability testing shouldnt be considered as the only source to find
the project or document problems, other activities should be done to support the arguments and revel
the problems. For example, in the lab instruction document of Experiment 4, if there were done some
user activities before creating the document, less problems will then be found when doing the usability
test. The usability test is not just to see the problems of the document but also how it works and how it
is effective. It identify for us the problems but also it show us what is working and dont need to be
changed.

Work Cited
-

Mirel, Barbara. "How Can Technical Communicators Evaluate the


Usability of Artifacts?" Solving Problems in Technical
Communication. Ed. Johndan and stuart. Chicago: The University of
Chicago Press, 2013.

Appendix A