The pros and cons of using photographs in nursing research

Edmondson, A.J. ORCID: 0000-0002-0224-1997 and Pini, S., 2019. The pros and cons of using photographs in nursing research. Nurse Researcher, 27 (2), pp. 8-13. ISSN 1351-5578

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Background: Traditional approaches to research can sometimes face difficulties in engaging participants, allowing flexibility and ultimately eliciting data about people’s experiences. When this occurs researchers should be more innovative with research design. Visual methods are an alternative approach to interview based qualitative research, where images (often photographs) are used as stimuli and/or structure within the interview. However, little has been published in the nursing literature to guide nurse researchers in applying and evaluating this method.

Aim: To increase nurse researchers’ awareness of visual methods and their potential, to enable them to make informed choices about methods in health research.

Discussion: Visual methods with a particular focus on methods which use photographs within health research are introduced. The benefits of using photographs in health research, such as reducing the gap between researcher and participant; and facilitating expression of meaningful data, are discussed along with ethical, analytical and practical difficulties. Discussion points are illustrated with reflections from health research, and a comparison of interviews with and without the use of photographs is also presented.

Conclusion: Using photographs offers a good alternative to more traditional approaches but the exact benefits are difficult to evidence because of the complexities of the research interaction.

Implications for practice: this detailed discussion of visual methods and the associated methodological issues should increase nurse researchers’ awareness of the method, assist them in making informed choices about research methods, and encourage their use in health research.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: Nurse Researcher
Creators: Edmondson, A.J. and Pini, S.
Publisher: RCN Publishing Ltd.
Date: June 2019
Volume: 27
Number: 2
ISSN: 1351-5578
Divisions: Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Linda Sullivan
Date Added: 10 Jun 2020 08:13
Last Modified: 22 Jun 2020 14:03

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