Visual Research methods

Visual Research

(Please note that this section is not about the type of ‘visual research’ that is a central part of most art and design courses, where students are encouraged to use museum visits and other image-related searches to inspire and inform their own practice. Instead it addresses the potential use of visual research methods in other subjects.)

Qualitative research in most disciplines still relies heavily on written or spoken language, with questionnaires, interviews and focus groups dominating most students’ assumptions about research methods. However, the researcher’s toolkit should also include a variety of visual approaches, which can be effective in helping respondents to access areas and levels of experience that might not easily surface in verbal form. In particular, it is often the move back and forth between visual and verbal modes of communication that generates key insights.

Some disciplines, particularly in the fields of sociology, anthropology and ethnography, do make use of qualitative visual research methods and have generated a rich literature on practical and methodological issues. However, there is a tendency to focus on photographic approaches rather than more ‘hands-on’ methods. To balance this, a half-day workshop for postgraduate students on a Qualitative Research module offers practical ideas and experience of using drawing and collage for research. This particular version was designed for health professionals but could be adapted for other subjects, using some of the examples and activities in the Drawing to Learn section.  Visual methods workshop for clinical ed students

Further resources:

General
Some examples of visually oriented research projects
Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis Software
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