The use of photography as a qualitative research tool
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The use of photography as a qualitative research tool

Helen Close Research associate, Centre for Integrated Health Care Research, School for Health, Wolfson Research Institute, Durham University, UK

With reference to her own study of children with long-term conditions, Helen Close considers whether photography as a research method can be both valuable and ethical

The use of photographs as a research method has fluctuated over the last century. It has seen a renewal of interest allied to a growth in consumer research and qualitative participatory techniques in healthcare research (Rose 2001, Heisley and Levy 1991, Hurworth 2003). This renewal of interest has, however, not kept pace with current debates about depth of data, data analysis techniques and ethical issues in nursing research, and little is known about the processes by which photographs can be integrated into a qualitative study (Hurworth 2003). The lack of agreement about the ethical and moral issues associated with the use and presentation of photographic data has prevented the widespread use of this useful and valuable research method (Banks 2001). These issues will be addressed here using experiences and insights formed during a study with chronically ill children who were asked to take photographs on which grounded theory interviews were based (Close 2005). These examples are used to analyse the practical, intellectual and ethical issues involved in the use of photography. Conclusions are based on the view that photography can be a powerful medium on which to base collaborative, fun research with children.

Nurse Researcher. 15, 1, 27-36. doi: 10.7748/nr2007.10.15.1.27.c6052

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