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Think aloud protocol is a method used to gather data in usability testing in product design and development, especially software engineering. Similar methods are sometimes used in psychology. The think-aloud method was developed by Clayton Lewis while he was at IBM, and is explained in C. Lewis and J. Rieman, "Task-Centered User Interface Design: A Practical Introduction".
Essentially, this involves asking real users to think aloud as they are performing a set of specified tasks using the product being tested. Users are asked to say whatever they are looking at, thinking, doing, and feeling, as they go about their task. This enables observers to see how users react to the product, and make changes accordingly. Observers at such a test are asked to objectively take notes of everything that users say, without attempting to interpret their actions and words. In fact, test sessions are often audio and video taped so that developers can go back and refer to what users did, and how they reacted to an interface. This method is especially helpful for determining users' expectations and identifying what aspects of the interface are confusing.
The think-aloud method can also be used in the study of reading. Readers are asked to "think aloud" whilst reading to determine what inferences they are drawing from a text. In the development of reading tests, the method may be used to highlight areas of questioning.
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