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Visual Elicitation in Applied Qualitative Health Research


The first featured article for the newly published ANS Vol 43:3 is titled “Visual Elicitation: Methods for Enhancing the Quality and Depth of Interview Data in Applied Qualitative Health Research” authored by Elizabeth R. Orr, MSc; Marilyn Ballantyne, PhD; Andrea Gonzalez, PhD and Susan M. Jack, PhD. We invite you to access this article at no charge while it is featured! Here is a message from Elizabeth Orr about this work!

Elizabeth Orr

Reaching the stage of data collection or generation is often a momentous occasion in the life of a research project. It follows long hours of planning and revising study protocols, completing ethical review and the frequently arduous task of participant recruitment. So how do you ensure this stage of research is meaningful and productive? What factors threaten to derail this stage of your project and what strategies can be adopted to mitigate this risk? These were the driving questions behind my exploration of arts-based research methods and the decision to incorporate visual elicitation strategies into my study exploring the transition home from NICU for adolescent mothers.

Using my PhD project – the NICU-to-Home Transitions study – as a study example, this article focuses on the operational or ‘how to’ aspects of incorporating visual elicitation tools or tasks within a semi-structured qualitative interview for the purpose of generating rich qualitative data. The considerations for planning and execution described in this article represent the deliberations that guided my adoption of these methods; however because they are presented as general strategies they can be applied broadly across study populations and contexts – particularly when factors such as power differentials or developmental processes threaten achieving the depth or detail required for the selected study design.

Generating rich, in-depth data and thus saving valuable time and resources was the impetus for exploring innovative approaches to qualitative interviews and the incorporation visual elicitation into my study protocol. However, the reason I will consider such activities in future studies – in addition to their contribution to rich and detailed interview data – is the value and meaning such tasks can have for the research participant (this was neither anticipated nor planned for). When a parent-participant asked me to keep their drawings so they could continue adding to them beyond the interview encounter I realized the methods I had carefully chosen – albeit for a different purpose – were meaningful for the participants in a way that would not be possible through semi-structured interviewing alone. It is my hope that with the clear guidance given in this article for the use of visual elicitation in qualitative data generation, that others will explore, adopt and experience the possibilities these methods hold.

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