Data Visualization Across Research Paradigms

Categories: Big Data, Creative Methods, Evaluation, Focus Series, Multimodal, Qualitative, Quantitative, Students, Teaching, Tools and Resources, Uncategorised, Visuals

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A MethodSpace focus for May is about ways to use visuals to represent key ideas, themes in the data, and results of the study, in qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods research and evaluation. Find all posts in this unfolding series.

Let’s start thinking about visualization.

The term “data visualization” is commonly used to describe the presentation of quantitative data, but in this series we will take a more inclusive perspective. We will broadly explore ways to visually present data in a wide variety of forms. These include words collected from participants’ accounts or documents, pictures and media, as well as numbers and statistics.

Andy Kirk’s popular book, Data Visualisation, offers a definition that fits this broader mission, even though his work centers on quantitative research uses. The principle, “to facilitate understanding” is essential regardless of the type of data!

(Read the first chapter from the Kirk’s 2016 edition, Defining Data Visualisation, for more about these defining terms.)


Research impact depends on readers’ understanding. Images or visuals can promote or complicate the scholarly or practical uses of our research. While we hope that readers within or outside of academia will have the visual and multimodal literacy needed to interpret visualizations, we need to present data in accessible ways. As Kirk notes, the reader cannot perceive, interpret, and comprehend the points we aim to convey visually, we have not succeeded. Through how-to posts, open access articles and resources, we’ll explore effective ways to communicate research visually in this series.

Kirk, A. (2016). Data visualization: A handbook for data driven design. London: SAGE Publications.

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