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Visual Methods in Research

When a researcher uses visual media - such as photographs, video or artwork - in their research process this is broadly referred to as "visual methods".  These images can be created as part of the research process, or they may already exist and be collected and curated for analysis.  Using such methods is relatively recent in the social sciences with Payne and Payne (2004) suggesting that most sociologists were "visually illiterate".

However, SAGE Research Methods Cases features a number of research projects where visual methods have been the primary source of data.  In her case on Visual Methodologies, Dawn Mannay discusses the process of visual data production and considers techniques such as photo elicitation, mapping and collage making.  Julia Bennett uses her case to consider how photographs can be used alongside diary methods in a phenomenological approach to understand everyday practices of belonging.  And, Antonia Layard and Hilary Ramsden discuss arts-based methods more generally, in particular the combination of storytelling and photography and how we can make such data usable for policy makers.   

Visual Methodologies: Participatory Potential, Practicalities, De-Familiarisation and Dissemination 

Dawn Mannay

Using Diaries and Photo Elicitation in Phenomenological Research: Studying Everyday Practices of Belonging in Place 

Julia Bennett

Localism, Narrative and Myth 

Antonia Layard and Hilary Ramsden

Teaching Research Methods using Cases

It is commonly assumed that students find research methods training to be a chore.  While students can be fascinated by findings and theories they often fail to engage with the "how" of research - how did the author generate their findings? How did the choices made by the researcher impact those findings? How do we test the limits and applicability of theory?  Recent research by Melanie Nind and Sarah Lewthwaite (2016, British Journal of Educational Studiesreports how experts respond to these pedagogical challenges.  One theme explored by Nind and Lewthwaite is that teachers should make research visible by connecting learners to the research process.  Expert researcher and teacher, Sharlene Hesse-Biber is quoted as encouraging teaching tools that go "behind the scenes" of research allowing students to understand: "the enormous journey that researchers go on, the false starts, the stops, the need to regroup, the iterative nature".  

We believe that SAGE Research Methods Cases provides this "pedagogical hook".  Our stories are from the field and relay the real life journey of researchers. Students will find tales of success alongside words of caution.  There is the excitement of the planning and the reality of the doing, the disappointments and highlights of a research project.  There are stories from PhD students and tenured Professors alike.  All of them aiming to illuminate the real story behind the journal article. This month we highlight a single case, written by Janet Salmons.  This case provides hints and tips to help you, as a teacher, use the breadth and depth of the Case collection to help connect your students to the research process.

How to Use Cases in Research Methods Teaching: An Author and Editor's View

Janet Salmons

Data Visualisation

When managing data dense research, it can be challenging to showcase your findings in an impactful and understandable manner. One solution to this issue is through data visualisation. By presenting your findings in a visual format such as a graph or diagram, you have the ability to simplify your data and communicate your ideas tangibly.

From log linear models based on associations on agricultural biotechnology to graphing Twitter user’s follower accession curve, these authors below have used data visualisation to best showcase their results. Our four chosen cases illustrate how much value data visualisation can add to your research!

Verbalised Images – An Investigation of Associations and Attitudes
Melanie Connor

User-Driven Data Capture: Locating and Analysing Twitter Conversation about Cystic Fibrosis without Keywords
Phillip Brooker, Julie Barnett, Timothy Cribbin, Alexandra R. Lang & Jennifer Martin

Social Media Analysis, Twitter and the London Olympics 2012
Pete Burnap, William Housley, Jeffrey Morgan, Luke Sloan, Matthew Williams & Adam Edwards

Identifying the Events That Connect Social Media Users: Charting Follower Accession on Twitter
Axel Bruns & Darryl Woodford