Using Visual Methods in Challenging Contexts

From May 5-6, 2014, Dr. Linda Liebenberg led this two-day workshop to explore the use of visual methods in research with marginalized populations.

Image-based elicitation methods are gaining prominence in social science research. Researchers widely argue that images (e.g. photos, videos, drawings) and artefacts (e.g. clay work, songs, traditional clothing) facilitate participants critical reflection on what they may take for granted. This process of reflection presents an opportunity for both re-presentation of lived experiences and improved articulation of these experiences in the interview setting. As such, these methods particularly appeal to researchers exploring issues such as resilience that are relevant in marginalized communities.

The workshop reviewed the grounded theory behind elicitation methods, current approaches to using image-based elicitation, the value of these approaches in answering particular research questions, integration of these approaches into research designs, ethical considerations of elicitation research, and the limits and cautions to consider when using these approaches.


The workshop provided hands-on experience with the steps to organize and analyze image-based data, which included coding visual tools and developing coding categories. Where data sets centre around both narrative and visual data, and where the subjective construction of experience becomes the focus of analysis, grounded theory analytic techniques that emphasize reciprocity with participants can help to generate explanations for patterns of behaviour.

A step-by-step process to organizing and analyzing data was reviewed, including: conducting initial coding of the data; coding the photographs and video images; developing more focussed codes and categories; writing memos to facilitate more textured and meaningful understandings of the data; and developing theory through the use of coding teams. 


Learning Objectives

The learning objectives of this workshop were:

  • To become familiar with the variety of image-based elicitation approaches used by researchers 
  • To become familiar with the paradigms and theoretical frameworks behind these approaches
  • To add image-based elicitation to one’s research toolbox and understand what types of questions it can best help answer and with which populations
  • To address ethical considerations of image-based elicitation methods
  • To apply a grounded theory approach to the analysis of image and text based data emerging from image-based elicitation methods.