We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What Is a Think Aloud Protocol?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 02, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A think aloud protocol (TAP) is a testing method where subjects are asked to talk while they interact with a manual, device, or concept. They can discuss how they feel while working, and puzzle out problems and solutions aloud as they proceed. Many facilities record the testing, and observers also take notes. This information can provide important feedback to improve a product, understand how people use critical thinking to solve problems, and collect more general information about how people think and behave.

In this process, the tester sets up the environment, usually with minimal distractions to control for variables. The test subject may be given a task like using a manual to assemble something or troubleshoot a program. Subjects can also interact with unknown objects, or test things like computer software and mechanical controls for devices. The researcher tells the subject about the purpose of the test, typically stressing that the goal is to collect information as naturally as possible.

The tester in the think aloud protocol begins interacting with the subject of the test, offering thoughts. These might range from the dislike of a manual's layout to an attempt to fix a problem. A participant might, for example, be presented with a computer and asked to perform a task. The user can talk about trying to find the right program for the task, learning the controls of the program, and seeking assistance from the computer's documentation.

This approach requires a neutral observer who does not comment or interact during the think aloud protocol. If mistakes occur, the tester takes note of the conditions. Users testing a new cell phone, for example, might all make similar mistakes, suggesting that something is wrong with the interface; a button that the designers think is intuitive, for example, might be confusing. Likewise, the documentation in a manual to set up a desk could be missing a key piece of information that results in a consistent error during testing.

Scientific researchers can use the think aloud protocol to learn more about human cognition, not necessarily with the goal of testing a product or set of documentation. Increasing understanding of how people solve problems and approach new environments can help researchers with tasks like treatment of patients with cognitive deficits or the development of programs for people with learning disabilities. Dyslexic subjects, for example, might show through a think aloud protocol that an education program supposedly designed for them doesn't work as intended.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.