A MethodSpace focus for May is on 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.
Some researchers visualize data after they have conducted the study. They start with an existing dataset or results of analysis, then create visual representations of their findings. They often need to translate data from one form to another to represent verbal, written, or numerical data in visual ways.
Other researchers start visualizing data from the beginning of the study by using visual methods to collect visual data. When visual data is collected, practices associated with visual representation of data are necessarily different.
One of my favorite quotes from Günter Kress’s writings on visual and multimodal literacy seems relevant here:
The world told is a different world to the world shown (Kress, 2003).
By using visual methods we invite research participants to show us some part of their worlds. Technology tools help us capture and analyze visual exchanges with participants.
In Doing Qualitative Research Online (2016) I discussed a Typology of Online Visual Methods (p. 146), which relates types of technology-mediated interactions with three broad types of visual data collection. Visual communication allows researchers to convey concepts or questions in ways that might be more understandable than a verbal or written descriptions. Visual elicitation techniques use photos, media, graphics, or drawings selected or created by the researcher or the participant, to stimulate discussion in an interview or focus group. Using visual collaboration methods, participants generate visual representations of their experiences during research interactions.
Learn more about these ideas and approaches by reading Doing Qualitative Research Online (2016) and Cases in Online Interview Research (2012), since both books are now available to read or download in PDF format from SAGE Research Methods. Part III, Collecting Qualitative Research Online, includes detailed explanations and practical tips for applying the
Typology of Online Visual Methods. Cases examples of creative approaches to visual data collection include studies with virtual reality and videoconferencing.
If you would like to access these and other SAGE e-books, articles, case studies, videos, and datasets but you don’t have access through a library, explore SAGE Research Methods with a free trial.
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Kress, G. (2003). Literacy in the new media age. London: Routledge.
Salmons, J. (2016). Doing qualitative research online Doing qualitative research online. London: SAGE Publications.
Salmons, J. (Ed.) (2012). Cases in online interview research. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications.