A mix of academic-excellence and design-practice gives me an edge in being able to establish a solid awareness of context. This insight is a prerequisite to the emergence of effective designs & solutions.
I sometimes begin the research phase with an intervention and use action-based research according to Carr & Kemmis’s model: plan an intervention, act it out with users, observe the results and then reflect on the outcomes. So long as assumptions are framed as they arise, this ‘discovery’ phase ends with an awareness of how users are challenged.
I use grounded-theory to gather qualitative feedback from users. As a foundational framework, grounded-theory supports the development of hybrid methodologies: my own ‘video-cued commentary’ method was developed by mixing grounded-theory, interaction-design, preview-screening & observational-recording.