Use of Participant-Generated Photographs Versus Time Use Diaries as a Method of Qualitative Data Collection

MaryEllen Thompson, Abigail Oelker


A small qualitative research study was chosen as a time efficient way to allow students to participate in and complete a research project during a 16-week long semester course. In the first year of the research contribution course, student researchers asked participants with diabetes to complete time use diaries as a part of their initial data collection. The time use diaries were found to be an ineffective way to collect data on self-management of diabetes and were not useful as a basis for subsequent interviews with the participants. A review of the literature suggested reasons for this lack of effectiveness; in particular, participants tend not to record frequently done daily activities. Further review of the literature pointed toward the use of participant-generated photography as an alternative. Subsequent participants were asked to take photographs of their daily self-management of their diabetes for initial data collection. These photographs provided a strong basis for subsequent interviews with the participants. A comparison of the data collected and the emergent themes from the two different methods of initial data collection demonstrated the improved ability to answer the original research question when using participant-generated photography as a basis for participant interviews. The student researchers found the use of participant-generated photographs to elicit interviews with participants in the context of a research contribution course to be effective and enjoyable.

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