Summary: 'User research' has become a catch-all phrase to mean user testing in many organizations. User research has two main activities: usability testing and field studies. Defining your design research with only a validation exercise (testing) misses the essential discovery of user needs, pain points and desires that Ethnographic Field Studies provide. User research should always mean more than just user testing!
How are you defining user research?
Many organizations we work with and UX designers we provide training for, tell us they do 'user research'. Once we dig deeper, we find they are defining user research as user testing. This means only half of UX insights are actually making it to your team.
The two main types of user research your team needs access to: