Increasingly, research involves elements of visual journaling. The advent of the smart phone and access to cheap, small digital camcorders and cameras has made it easier to involve participants in the process of data collection through time. The question is, what to do with all the video and images you collect as participants essentially become part of the research team? Step one is to simply organize what it is that comes in from a visual standpoint. Step two is to categorize the data based along lines of what the participants tell you about it. I specifically look at the linguistic component here.
Initial analysis should identify the level of reflection. What are the basic cognitive frames around which the language is centered. While there are any number of levels the researcher can devise, I typically subscribe to the levels of reflection developed in Chabon & Lee-Wilkerson (2006):
- Level 1 – Descriptive: When describing the image or video, the participant provided evidence that new knowledge was obtained, which allowed him/her to make sense of new experiences or make links between old and new knowledge (what one used to think/did vs. what was learned and how it affected him/her).
- Level 2 – Emphatic: When describing the image or video, the participant expressed thoughts or emotions about others and self. He/she reflects their experience (emotions, attitudes, beliefs) onto how future participants may feel or react to the experience. Participant empathizes with those around him/her, projecting expectations and empathy.
- Level 3 – Analytic: When describing the image or video, the participant demonstrates the application of learning to a broader context of personal life. The photo journal entry provides evidence of learning/growth in order to contrast, compare, or plan for new actions or responses. Participant also notice unexpected positive or negative outcomes related to the image or video – greater attention is paid to connecting the research topic with other ideas, issues, etc.
- Level 4 – Metacognitive: When describing the image or video, the participant demonstrate examination of the learning process, showing what learning occurred during the journaling, how learning occurred, and how newly acquired knowledge or learning altered existing knowledge, practices or beliefs. The participant plans to change future behavior based on the project experience and its outcome(s) on his/her life.
To help diminish bias, entries are coded independently by two individuals unfamiliar with the topic, and then compared for differences which are to be resolved by consensus. Once the data are coded and the relevant themes identified, they can then be tied to the business objectives of the project, resulting in better strategies, greater innovation and increased revenue.