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27  Going beyond words: benefits and challenges of visual research methods for qualitative research in palliative care
  1. Michèle JM Wood,
  2. Catherine Walshe and
  3. Amara Nwosu
  1. Marie Curie Hospice, London Place; Lancaster University


Introduction Relying on written or spoken words, like questionnaires or interviews, has been criticised for not adequately communicating people’s complex multidimensional experiences. Cognitive and physical efforts needed, and palliative patients’ inherent anxieties in speaking with researchers, can limit the depth of data generated by verbal-only methods. Collage pictures and concept mapping are two visual methods. These promote researcher-participant collaboration, increasing the latter’s autonomy and self-representation in the research process.

Aims To explore two visual research methods to understand experiences of receiving and delivering emotional support by videoconferencing in adult palliative care looking at

  • practicalities

  • researcher-participant engagement

  • credibility and trustworthiness of knowledge gained

Methods A multiple-site qualitative case study, with data purposively sampled from three UK hospices. Participants include patients, carers, health professionals, and hospice personnel. Data collection includes collages, concept maps and reflective journaling. Within and cross case analysis incorporates qualitative content analysis and critical visual methodology.

Results Summary of visual methods usage

  • Practicalities (postage, equipment, dexterity, virtual whiteboards)

  • Engagement (recruitment; managing research dialogues; task comprehension)

  • Data interpretation challenges

Conclusions Collage pictures and concept maps can maximise engagement in research of diverse participants with a range of cognitive abilities, energy levels and verbal literacy. But researchers must address practical and interpersonal challenges to build reciprocity and rapport within the research relationship. This in turn may enhance credibility and trustworthiness of knowledge generated.

Impact Unless palliative care research methods fully engage participants’ experiences information obtained will only have partial relevance to the population being investigated. Collage making and concept mapping provide people with limited time and energy the greatest opportunities to contribute their knowledge to the research process.

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