There are a range of tools you will need when conducting user research. Some of these are available to you via centrally managed licenses, while others can be purchased by your team.

Warning You must never install any software or use any web service that collects personal data, unless it has gained DfE data protection and security assurance

Power laptops

If you are doing a lot of video editing or using other resource-intensive specialist software, you can request a more powerful laptop. The request will be approved by the head of user research, and you may be asked to give rationale for why you need it for your work.

Request this in the IT Service Portal. Search for 'Power device'.

This is also available to contractors, in some instances. Ask the civil servant responsible for your statement of work (e.g. your delivery manager, or lead user researcher) to request it for you.

Specialist software and online tools

There are some specialist user research software and online tools that are available to all user researchers. The current list is on the Digital Tools Support team website. You can contact that team for more support in the Digital Tools Support Slack channel (opens in a new tab)

There may be a cost to your team for these tools, so speak to your delivery manager first.

You can also speak to the Digital Tools Support team about buying licenses for other software or online services. They can tell you what you and your delivery manager will need (e.g. a business case and budget approval). If the software or service doesn't already have data and security assurance, they will arrange this. This process can sometimes take a few weeks, so leave plenty of time to do this.

You can also contact them if a tool you need to use is not available, or if you already have access to digital tools and have questions.

Artificial intelligence/large language model tools

You can use AI tools in your work, and we encourage you to experiment and innovate with them. Please share what you learn with the UR community.

However, you must never put personal data into an AI large language model tool (LLM) tool (e.g. ChatGPT, Gemini, Copilot, and AI functions in other software or tools) which hasn't been approved for this use in DfE. This is because the data may become part of the language model, becoming available to other users of the AI. This could be a data breach under UK GDPR law.

You must also never put any sensitive or commercially sensitive data into a non-approvced AI tool.

The Department is trialling a secure, private AI solution (DfE users only) for you to use in your work, which will have fewer restrictions. You should choose to use this tool whenever possible.

Make sure you have read and always follow the Acceptable use of IT (DfE users only) policy.

Other tools

We don't currently have any centrally available tools like video cameras, dictaphones, etc. We're working on this (see our profession roadmap).

For now, if you need these, you can buy them with your team or programme area's budget. Your delivery manager can help you with this.