Joann and I (in our little UX group of two) regularly employ several User Experience research methods to inform the design process.
Nielsen Norman Group released their version of the different UX methods they use. These are broadly categorized into:
Discover: The discovery stage is when you try to illuminate what you don’t know and better understand what people need. It’s especially important to do discovery activities before making a new product or feature, so you can find out whether it makes sense to do the project at all.
Explore: Exploration methods are for understanding the problem space and design scope and addressing user needs appropriately.
Test: Testing and validation methods are for checking designs during development and beyond, to make sure systems work well for the people who use them.
Listen: Listen throughout the research and design cycle to help understand existing problems and to look for new issues. Analyze gathered data and monitor incoming information for patterns and trends. Also Joann's favorite step!
Take a look at the detailed list and activities here, and see if there are any methods you can use in your own work. Feel free to chat with Joann and me about this as well.