Public Testimony as a Source of Naturally Occurring Data: An Ethical and Rigorous Approach to Investigating Resilience in the Face of a Natural Disaster


This case study examines the process and implications of using public testimonies as a source of naturally occurring data for a qualitative analysis. The case study uses research and publications from the doctoral dissertation, ‘Flood and Fire: Exploring the influence of the process and context of resilience’ which set out to explore resilience in adults who experienced a natural disaster to inform public health practice. This project used public testimonies from people who presented to the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission to support observations alongside semi-structured interviews with people who had experienced the 2010/2011 floods in Victoria, Australia. We found the public testimonies to be information rich with a surprisingly similar structure to the interview transcripts. The use of naturally occurring data can privilege the voice of communities without increasing the burden of research on participants who experience trauma. Examples show how the use of testimonies available from a public record required an ethical and rigorous approach to using naturally occurring data.

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