Skip to content

Choose the Right Tool for the Job: Advice from Scouts

Understanding which projects your participants enjoy most not only enables better insights but creates a better experience for everyone.

Words by Karen Eisenhauer, Visuals by Jarred Kolar

The versatility of our platform—offering recruitment, moderated, and unmoderated research—gives researchers a full arsenal of resources to choose from. But there’s one obstacle that comes with having an extensive have a lot of options before starting a project.

As you explore the dscout suite, you may ask yourself, “I think I want to do an unmoderated study...would Diary or Express be a better use of my time? Which fits better with my budget? If I decide I want to speak directly with a I have to do a Live mission or can I use Diary?”

While the resources on our site can help answer most of these questions, we wanted to go beyond our team’s expertise and ask a group of folks who are platform masters in their own right: our scouts!

We used a series of Express missions to ask scouts to share which studies they’ve enjoyed participating in the most and how those researchers conducted them (with their design, prompts, etc.) to make it enjoyable.

Below, we'll walk through our three data-collecting tools (Diary, Express, and Live) and break down what each tool is best used for. We’ll also identify how to align your needs with both the platform and your scouts’ preferences and expectations. Giving you better data and your scouts a better experience.

If you're interested in best practices for using our Recruit tool, check out this primer.

Jump to:


Diary is our moments-based, unmoderated tool. Scouts progress through activities (parts) on either desktop or mobile. Despite the name, Diary can be used for anything from journey maps to usability.

Why scouts love Diary missions

It’s comprehensive

For scouts, Diary is the go-to tool to give complete and comprehensive feedback. Most scouts go into a Diary mission expecting to be asked challenging questions and to provide a lot of detail in their answers. Many even enjoy the feeling of getting (and completing) a meaty assignment.

"I like participating in diary missions the most because they feel like a project to me. I plan, do some research, write out my thoughts, and present them. It's challenging and exciting." - Lucent M. (He/Him/His)

"I love spending days or weeks or even months doing a mission. I'm the type of person that likes to keep busy and dscout has definitely helped my mental health as well." - Steph G. (She/Her/Hers)

"I felt that they asked appropriate questions that made me think. It also encouraged me to teach my dogs to use the door" - Kelli l. (She/Her/Hers)

It’s flexible

Scouts appreciate the time flexibility that Diary provides. Compared to Express’ quick turnarounds and Live’s tip-of-the-tongue nature, Diary feels relaxed and easy-going. Scouts appreciate the time that’s provided to get their thoughts together, especially for a difficult or abstract topic.

"The diary missions give you ample time to collect your thoughts and give very thoughtful answers. The extra time to gather my thoughts and review what I write is what makes me really enjoy doing a Diary mission. Because I am a very thorough and detail-oriented person, I like this format the most because it facilitates detail and comprehensiveness a lot more than the other two types of missions." - Jamie L. (He/Him/His)

"I like the diary missions because I can usually do them at my leisure within the time frame that’s needed. I can be more thoughtful in my answers and give myself time to think." - Kelli P. (She/Her/Hers)

It allows for back and forth

Scouts appreciate being able to ask and be asked questions about the study. It gives them a sense of connection and assures them that they’re providing value to the researchers.

"You can always have a conversation with the researcher if you have a different point of view or perspective on a particular task." - Jay P. (He/Him/His)

"They were very interactive and posed great questions through the study to make sure we'd get the most out of each part. It made it fun to participate." - Alana M. (She/Her/Hers)

"I love the message system to keep up with the researchers. I also love the fun Diary descriptions because they show some personality." - Rachel M. (She/Her/Hers)

How to best utilize Diary

Don’t shy away from a challenge

Scouts go in expecting Diary missions to be comprehensive, and they even enjoy thinking about challenging questions.

"I love being in missions where I’m forced to research on my own and figure out new ways to use a product. This enhances my own abilities and is a win-win." - Mitchell B.

"Make projects more catered towards critical thinking." - David M.

Give scouts time flexibility

Consider using automatic missions rather than opening each part one at a time. This will save you time messing with logistics while giving scouts the maximum amount of flexibility.

"The researchers had broken up the study into several parts which made it easier to complete and allowed for adequate time in between each part to reflect on your answer. It was a friendly back and forth and the incentive was sufficient to the time expended." - Jay P. (He/Him/His)

"They had everything available ahead of time, so I could truly work through it at my own pace, and it was all very professional." - Kristal K.

Message often

Scouts love hearing from you, even if it’s just to say that they’re doing a good job.

"I would encourage them to give feedback occasionally so we as members know that we are on the right track." - Kelli l. (She/Her/Hers)

"Be encouraging and supportive. It's nice to hear when we're doing a good job." - Rebecca S. (She/Her/Hers)

Back to top


Live is dscout’s moderated interview tool. It lets researchers connect one-on-one with scouts for interviews, guided usability, debriefs or longer-form guided activities.

Why scouts love Live missions

It’s personal

More than anything, scouts love being able to actually connect with researchers face-to-face. It gives them an opportunity to feel the connection to both the researcher and the project itself.

"I love being able to interact with other people. I find it enjoyable and all of the researchers I’ve talked to have been wonderful. They also use a variety of different resources during the missions so it’s really interactive." - Bria J. (She/Her/Hers)

"I like being able to talk to the researchers one-on-one. I feel like I am better understood and it's a more personal experience." - Jessica P. (She/Her/Hers)

It gives in-depth insight

Scouts feel it as much as researchers do—there’s just no replacement for the level of detail you can get in Live. Scouts appreciate that they can fully expand on their opinions, it feels more natural and nuanced, and scouts better trust that they’re giving researchers the insights they’re looking for.

"I enjoy speaking directly with other people about whatever the topic is. Live interviews give me an opportunity to interact directly with someone else and deeply explore the topic they are delving into. I'm a very honest participant, so I feel like I participate and contribute meaningfully in these situations." - Greg B. (He/Him/His)

"I enjoy live missions because I find it a lot easier to express my thoughts through verbal communication rather than trying to get my thoughts down into text." - Joseph S. (He/Him/His)

They get to see the impact firsthand

For Diary and Express, scouts usually have to trust that what they’re sharing has some impact. Live allows them to actually see researchers react in real time and helps them understand that what they’re providing is valuable. It’s uniquely gratifying for both the scout and researcher.

"I have participated in over ten live interview missions over the past two years, and in at least half of them, it was extremely clear in my conversation with the researcher that we hit on some really interesting insights through our conversation. I like being able to see the impact my thoughts are having on the actual researcher who is going to be responsible for providing feedback to their team and helping to shape and solve whatever problem they are working on.

I generally ignore Express missions because giving them a video clip that they can use however they want out of context is worth far more than the $2-$5 they are offering. I participate in Diary missions happily for the most part, but it feels very clear that Live conversations are where my feedback is able to have the most impact." - Samantha F. (She/Her/Hers)

"I love to express my opinion in person or on a video chat with someone. I think that is the best way to really make an impact." - Michelle F. (She/Her/Hers)

How to best utilize Live

Take time to establish rapport

Scouts are here for the human connection. Taking time to establish that connection before diving in can make your interview memorable and enjoyable—not to mention, comfortable participants usually give you more thoughtful and detailed answers.

"If you’re doing a Live interview with someone, make it more conversation style versus just you going through a bunch of questions. Let the conversation flow and glean information from the conversations." -Sharon S. (She/Her/Hers)

"I think you have to be not so serious get to the know the person a little and have fun and laugh this makes a person feel more comfortable" - Steve B. (She/Her/Hers)

Communicate the impact

Telling scouts what their data will be used for can be a great way to get people excited about sharing their opinions. Even if you can’t say directly what you’re using the research for, be sure to thank them and assure them that their voice is being heard. Letting some excitement show through can also be a powerful motivating tool.

"The biggest thing I gained from the experience was the feeling of having potentially influenced a company to be the sort of thing I would want to participate in! Especially because in this case the initial way that they were framing the company was something that would have been unappealing to me, and through our conversation, we landed on a few different marketing angles and ways of organizing the company that I know would be exciting for me and a bunch of people in my community.

The researcher seemed pretty obviously excited about the conversation we had; it was a genuinely fun way to spend an hour" - Samantha F. (She/Her/Hers)

"If I feel you are interested in my results, I will really try to give high quality answers." - Hannah J. (She/Her/Hers)

Dig deep

Scouts participate in Live interviews to fully explore and share their viewpoints. Where asking repetitive questions can get on scouts' nerves in Diary, they welcome it here as a way to further expand on what they’re saying. The flexibility of a conversation opens the psychological space for them to think, rethink, and reply.

"I thought the interviewer was especially effective at drilling down by asking additional questions to help me uncover the information they were looking for. They didn't try to intimidate me, or push me in a certain way, but they facilitated an easy discussion which allowed me to open up.

They also gave me time to reflect before an answer so that my answers could be thoughtful" - Greg B. (He/Him/His)

"I felt that it was mentally refreshing to stretch myself to find the phrases and words to answer [my researcher’s] questions." - Hannah J. (She/Her/Hers)

Back to top


Express is the quick turn mixed-media feedback tool. It's perfect for sending a focused set of questions to a large sample for iterative work, gut-checks, or discovery use cases.

Why scouts love Express missions

It's easy to fit in their schedules

Scouts who love Express missions are busy, on-the-go people. They expect that Express will be light-weight, quick, and to use them as little interludes between other tasks. Lunch breaks, commutes, and other little breaks in their days are a perfect time to get some bite-sized research in.

"I love being able to quickly respond and provide on the spot feedback on the express missions. It allows me to still provide feedback but in a quick and easy way." - Jessica B. (She/Her/Hers)

"I like to get involved with something quick that I don't have to do a ton of stuff with." - Jeremy C. (He/Him/His)

"I love the express missions, short and to the point." - Alisha W. (She/Her/Hers)

It gives immediate gratification

Scouts love that they can start and finish a task—and get paid for it—all in one sitting. It makes filling out Express missions almost feel like a quick game they can play.

"I get the money that day, and normally I need it then, so it helps a lot. Instead of waiting for a later day like with the longer missions." - Emily L. (She/Her/Hers)

"The reason that I answered this way is because you can make money any time of the day and you never know when it will happen, but when it does it’s like a prize and it’s exciting." -Dale B. (He/Him/His)

It’s fun and accessible

Being able to give direct feedback without having to apply for a screener first, makes Express feel both accessible and gratifying.

"[I like express because] it's almost guaranteed to accept me compared to other longer missions" - Christian V. (He/Him/His)

It's an engaging way to connect with the brands they love

Scouts mentioned the delight of seeing new versions of experiences, being added to beta features, or even seeing new product tests from the brands they follow. Express gives designers, PMs, and UXRs a captive audience to gut-check new and evolving ideas.

"[In my favorite project] I learned about a new product and provided feedback as to how it can be used or implemented" - Kalpesh S.

"I liked being able to evaluate a product and provide feedback each step of the way. I also learned a lot about a product that I wasn’t deeply aware of prior" - Nick D. (He/Him/His)

How to best utilize Express

Keep it light and breezy

Scouts are approaching these studies in short spurts in between other routine tasks. Suddenly asking big, abstract questions may throw a wrench in their days and may produce sub-quality data.

Keep questionnaires short and, if possible, low lift for the scouts. Save your more abstract questions for longer, more in-depth missions.

One best practice to keep in mind is if you are going to launch a meatier, more difficult Express, do it in the evening! People are more likely to be home and can give your topic the time and attention it deserves.

“Just letting people know my opinion about VR is fun talking about it because it's something I really enjoy. The questions were thorough but easy to complete. And of course, the subject was awesome." - Jennifer E. (She/Her/Hers)

Relatable topics

Scouts love Express because they’re accessible and fun. Creating express missions around relatable topics that many people can speak on is ideal! For more niche recruits, I’d recommend using Recruit plus a short one-part diary study.

"The mission must have a wow factor and be unique enough to catch my attention and be interesting in reference to my own life." - Marquist S. (He/Him/His)

"It was quick, but I also enjoyed going into detail about how I use audio equipment. I am a bit of an audiophile, so it was of interest to me." - Elle J. (She/Her/Hers)

Faster is fun

Capitalize on the game-y, immediate feeling of Express. Close-ended questions are particularly well-suited for Express because you can get so many responses so quickly, but also because scouts filling it out can feel that sense of gratification without getting bogged down in a flood of open-ended questions.

“[My advice to researchers is] Keep it short and direct, but also make it fun.” - Dale B (he/him/his)

Have questions about any of our tools? Contact your research advisor, or connect with one of our account managers today.

Back to top

Karen is a researcher at dscout. She has a master’s degree in linguistics and loves learning about how people communicate with each other. Her specialty is in gender representation in children’s media, and she’ll talk your ear off about Disney Princesses if given half the chance.

Subscribe To People Nerds

A weekly roundup of interviews, pro tips and original research designed for people who are interested in people

The Latest