Data Speaks: Use of Poems and Photography in Qualitative Research

Data Speaks: Use of Poems and Photography in Qualitative Research

Carolyn N. Stevenson
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 26
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1025-4.ch006
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Qualitative research methods provide the researcher with opportunity to share the lived experiences of participants in an authentic manner. These narratives can be enhanced through visual expression, such as use of photos, which provide another way to exercise self-expression. Found poetry has a rich history in participant-based studies, while self-studies utilize poems as an opportunity to address more philosophical or poststructuralist opportunities. These forms of data collection can provide a rich, thick description of those often overlying on the peripherals of society. By offering participants the opportunity to personally select descriptive photographs and articulate expression in their own voice through poetry, the lived experiences can authentically be displayed.
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This chapter discusses the role of photographs and poems in qualitative research. Through use of actual student work, undergraduate student perspectives on critical social issues are presented. The presentation of the data is shown through student photographs and poems. Having an understanding of the visual means of data collection adds to the richness of the lived experiences of the participants. Use of photographs and poems provides a means for participants to express their interpretation of complex social issues in a visual and written format. Students also shared their lived experiences through a live classroom presentation.

Qualitative researchers need to be aware of the visual aspects of data collection and creative use of poetry to allow participants to freely document life in an urban setting and formation of self-identity. These methods allow for a more personalized approach to documenting issues related to poverty, violence, and self-understanding. It is through analysis of the photographs and poems a greater understanding of social issues in an urban setting can occur allowing qualitative researchers to gain a broader sense of social issues and ways individuals rise above environmental challenges to reach personal success.

This case study involved six undergraduate students from a small, private, urban university in Chicago, IL. The participants were instructed to use photography as a vehicle for self-expression on identity and the way they viewed their world and their communities. Participants also created poems to enhance an understanding of the way they view live in an urban setting. This chapter includes example poems, photographs, and detailed description of the social challenge faced in their individual communities.

The exploratory questions that guided the study are:

  • 1.

    What elements constitute undergraduate student perspectives on social issues in their communities?

  • 2.

    How can photography and poetry be used to illustrate the social issues in their communities?

  • 3.

    What beliefs do these undergraduate students hold which support or negate this perspective?

Findings from this case study will assist qualitative researchers in learning more about using visual data and poetry as a means to present qualitative data. It is through the participants own perception that critical social issues in urban communities can be portrayed through the eyes of outlying, marginalized populations. Through representation of findings in a visual format serious social challenges in urban settings can be called into questions and recommendations for future change can be proposed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Framework Analysis: Where the objectives of the investigation are set in advance and shaped by the information requirements of the funding body; the thematic framework for the content analysis is identified before the research commences (a priori).

Grounded theory: Aims to generate a theory that is 'grounded in' or formed from the data and is based on inductive reasoning. This contrasts with other approaches that stop at the point of describing the participants' experiences. In terms of data analysis grounded theory refers to coding incidents from the data and identifying analytical categories as they emerge from the data, rather than defining them a priori.

Triangulation: The process by which the area under investigation is looked at from different perspectives. These can include two or more methods, sample groups or investigators. It is used to ensure that the understanding of an area is as complete as possible or to confirm interpretation through the comparison of different data sources.

Transferability: The ability to apply the results of research in one context to another similar context. Also, it refers to the extent to which a study invites readers to make connections between elements of the study and their own experiences.

Holistic: Exploration of a research question multi-dimensionally, exhaustively and in its entirety, preserving the complexity of human behavior.

Field Observation: The observation of participants in their natural setting. Observation can be direct or indirect, participatory, or non-participatory.

Ethnography: Focuses on the sociology of meaning through close field observation of socio-cultural phenomena. Typically, the ethnographer focuses on a community.

Consent: The informed consent of participants and respect the right of respondents to refuse involvement. Must understand the nature of the project, the procedures that will be used and the use to which the results will be put.

Confidentiality: To respect the confidential nature of the information gathered during the research and preserve the anonymity of participants.

Case Study: Attempts to shed light on a phenomenon by studying in depth a single case example of the phenomena. The case can be an individual person, an event, a group, or an institution.

Action Research: Inquiry or research in the context of focused efforts to improve the quality of practice and is typically designed and conducted by practitioners who analyze the data to improve their own practice.

Validity: Asks whether the interpretation placed on the data accords with common sense and is relatively untainted with personal or cultural perspective.

Document Analysis: Looks for occurrences of specific words or phrases in a document or interpret text to seek nuances of meaning and to consider context.

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