Visual Techniques

Bateman, J. A., Veloso, F. O., Wildfeuer, J., Cheung, F. H., & Guo, N. S. (2016). An Open Multilevel Classification Scheme for the Visual Layout of Comics and Graphic Novels: Motivation and Design. Digital Scholarship in the Humanities. doi:10.1093/llc/fqw024

Techniques: comics. Context: Analytical look at the layout of comics and graphic novels. This is useful for people who want to produce comics or graphic novels as part of their research. (LK)

Dew, A., Smith, L., Collings, S., & Savage, L. (2018). Complexity Embodied: Using Body Mapping to Understand Complex Support Needs. Forum: Qualitative Social Research19(2). doi:

Techniques: Body mapping. Context: To use body mapping as a means to help those with a cognitive disability express feelings and needs. Useful for non verbal communication with participants. (ED)

Elsawah, S., Guillaume, J. H. A., Filatova, T., Rook, J. & Jakeman, A. J. (2014). A methodology for  eliciting, representing, and analyzing stakeholder knowledge for decision making on complex socio-ecological systems: From cognitive maps to agent-based models. Journal of  Environmental Management 15: 500-516.

Elsawah and colleagues outline methods for creating individual and collective cognitive maps, that represent how an individual perceives a specific issue or system. The authors’ research is focused on evaluating individual stakeholder decision-making processes and policy impacts of groundwater management in Australia. They create cognitive maps using an Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) approach, which evaluates how “agents” in socio-ecological systems change in response to one another and the surrounding environment. This paper is useful for those interested in mental model mapping approaches and data visualization techniques. JB

Farmer, D., & Cepin, J. (2017). Creative Visual Methods in Research with Children and Young People. In T. Skelton, R. Evans, & L. Holt (Eds.), Methodological Approaches (Vol. 2, pp. 303-333). Singapore: Springer. DOI:10.1007/978-981-287-020-9_22

Using a research project on children’s mobilities in Ontario, Canada (Farmer 2009-2012), this chapter explores how methods for ethnographic and qualitative research can be best adapted to facilitate the contributions of children to research both as participants and as researchers. The article discusses the value of reflexivity in the research process, highlights the advantages of using visual, creative, and interactive methods and research tools to more effectively engage with children and youth through the research process. RC

Glegg, S. M. N. (2019). Facilitating Interviews in Qualitative Research With Visual Tools: A Typology. Qualitative Health Research, 29(2), 301-310. DOI: 10.1177/1049732318786485

This article provides a typology of visual methods sorted into five categories of how the methods are best utilized in research, these include effecting change, facilitating the relationship, enabling communication, representing the data, and enhancing data quality and validity. The article also discusses key ethical considerations of using visual methods including issues regarding confidentiality, consent, representation and audience, fuzzy boundaries, authorship and ownership, and minimizing harm. RC

Glegg, S. M. N. (2019). Facilitating Interviews in Qualitative Research With Visual Tools: A Typology. Qualitative Health Research29(2), 301–310.

This article discusses the potential benefits of using visual tools in interview-based data making. This technique would be best used on closed off or quiet groups where visuals would help stimulate conversation. This could include marginalized populations or younger participants. (AER)

Karnieli-Miller, O., Nissim, G., & Goldberg, M. (2017). “It’s in the Cards”: The Contribution of Illustrated Metaphor Cards to Exploring Values Within Narratives. Qualitative Health Research, 27(1), 138-151.

This paper discusses the use of metaphorical cards to enhance communication and expression of experiences, thoughts and emotions during interviews. The cards used were adapted to the participant population – in this case, Israeli individuals living with severe mental illnesses – and included pictures depicting situations, metaphors, or other things relevant to the lives of the participants. No text was included on the cards so that the ideas and feelings expressed by participants were not biased or influenced by the meaning of the words. RC

Literat, I. (2013). “A Pencil for Your Thoughts”: Participatory Drawing as a Visual Research Method with Children and Youth. International Journal of Qualitative Methods 12: 84-98.

This article discusses the benefits and limitations of using participatory drawing methods with children and youth participants. It highlights the ways that drawing activities can be more inclusive and interactive than traditional verbal or text-based methods when working with children as they don’t relay as heavily on linguistic proficiency, and also notes that the method discourages hierarchical power dynamics between participant and researcher and rejects positivist epistemologies.  Literate discusses some limitations to the approach, pointing to the danger of over-interpretation by the researcher and recommends the use of a “critical visual methodology” as well as inviting children to narrate their drownings as a way of triangulating the meanings and ideas they express in their art. RC

Overmars, M. T., Thomése, F., & Moonen, X. (2018). Photovoice in research involving people with intellectual disabilities: A guided photovoice approach as an alternative. Journal of Applied Research in Intellectual Disabilities, 31(1), e92–e104.

Overmars et al. used the guided photovoice approach for fourteen participants with intellectual disabilities to gain insight into their feelings, ideas, and experiences. They followed up the stage of taking photographs by conducting interviews with each participant in which they could explain their photos. The approach used in this article might be useful for a researcher interested in including people in research who have difficulties with communication or are hindered on a cognitive or conceptual level. Photovoice can also empower individuals by giving them a voice, which can lead to increased self-advocacy for changes in their living environment. B.F.

Perry, J. (2018). Play-making with migrant farm workers in Ontario, Canada: a kinesthetic and embodied approach to qualitative research. Qualitative Research18(6), 689-705. doi:

Techniques: Poetic inquiry and interviews. Context: This article explores woman’s experiences of displacement and loss of sense of place with two participants in Newfoundland, Canada. This method could be useful for those doing a project related to displacement or other major life experiences which are significant and evoke emotion

Peterle, G. (2016). Comic book cartographies: A cartocentred reading of City of Glass, the graphic novel. Cultural Geographies,24(1), 43-68. doi:10.1177/1474474016643972

Techniques: Comics. Context: comics/graphic novels as a tool for interdisciplinary research using geo/cartographical and literary methods. This article provides a really good argument for how and why comics can serve as a research tool in addition to a research output. (LK)

Vacchelli, E. (2017). Embodiment in qualitative research: collage making with migrant, refugee and asylum seeking women. Qualitative Research18(2), 171-190.

Techniques: Collage making. Context: providing support refugee and asylum-seeking woman with mental health by providing an outlet of emotional expression through collage making. Useful for projects where research is dealing with sensitive and complex emotional information (ED)

Wang, C., & Burris, M. A. (1997). Photovoice: Concept, Methodology, and Use for Participatory Needs Assessment. Health Education & Behavior,24(3), 369-387.

This article is one of the first instances of the term Photovoice, coined by Caroline C. Wang and Mary Ann Burris. Originally known as photo novella, the term Photovoice emphasized the sharing of knowledge. This article provides a perfect introduction to the Photovoice method, as the original publication of the concept. (EG)