“A Pencil for Your Thoughts”: Participatory Drawing as a Visual Research Method with Children and Youth

  • Ioana Literat Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism University of Southern California Los Angeles, California, United States


This article explores the use of participatory drawing as a non-mechanical visual research method in qualitative research with children and youth. Because of its co-constructed and playful nature, as well as its lack of dependence on linguistic proficiency, participatory drawing emerges as a highly efficient and ethically sound research strategy that is particularly suited for work with children and young people across a variety of cultural contexts. The analysis of drawn images, complemented by a subsequent discussion of these drawings in the context of their production, has the potential of revealing a more nuanced depiction of concepts, emotions, and information in an expressive, empowering, and personally relevant manner. As a review of the participatory drawing methodology, this article draws on several examples in order to highlight the inherent affordances of the visual mode and discuss the benefits and limitations of using this strategy in research with children and youth.