Department of Sociology

Visual, creative and participatory methods in social science research

Date • Time

Tuesday, February 27, 2018 - 09:30 to 17:00


Stag Hill Campus, University of Surrey, Guildford, GU2 7XH


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Visual images have become ubiquitous in contemporary culture and at the same time there has been a move towards creative methodologies in critical social science research. This workshop will explore the visual image in mediated forms and its use as a tool of qualitative inquiry and dissemination. The opportunities and limitations of participatory approaches will be considered and the workshop will introduce a number of techniques of creative data production including drawing, collage, sandboxing, emotion stickers, photoelicitation, artefacts and plasticine modelling; and provide opportunities to engage in hands on experiential data sessions. There will be an engagement with the ways in which images are read and created, and the ethical implications of researching with the visual. Discourses of impact, dissemination and engagement will also be considered in relation to artwork, film, magazine and music, as ways to move beyond the standard academic article and reach wider and more diverse audiences with research findings and recommendations. The presentation of the material will set out current debates in visual, social and cultural studies and the related activities will invite you to interrogate the usefulness of creative approaches and explore how they could be applied in your own analysis, data production and dissemination activities.

Course overview

  • Contextual overview of the use of ‘the visual’ as a research method
  • Explore a range of visual, creative and participatory methods including the use of:
    • Found Objects
    • Visual Images
    • Sandboxing
    • Photoelicitation
    • Collage
    • Drawing
    • Plasticine Modelling
  • Interpreting and analysing visual data
  • Ethical concerns when researching ‘the visual’
  • Presenting your research creatively and maximising imapct
  • Two group activities to put learning into practice through using participatory methods first hand

Learning outcomes

  • Gain a broad understanding of a range of visual, creative and participatory research methods
  • Feel confident working with visual data
  • Feel confident using participatory methods in research
  • Understand the ethical implications involved in researching ‘the visual’
  • Be inspired to consider alternative methods of research and ways to present research findings and recommendations 

Course leader


Dr Jessie Abrahams is a is a Research Fellow at the University of Surrey working on the Eurostudents project exploring contemporary understandings of the university student across Europe. Prior to this she completed a doctorate at Cardiff University focussed on the ways in which institutional structures and practices reproduce social class inequalities in education. She has also been a research assistant and consultant on the Paired Peers project looking at social class, and the role of universities in social mobility. Jessie is co-convenor of the British Sociological Association (BSA) Bourdieu study group.




Dr Dawn Mannay is a Senior Lecturer in Social Sciences (Psychology) at Cardiff University. Her research interests revolve around class, education, identity and inequality. Dawn was the Principal Investigator on a Welsh Government funded project exploring the education of care experienced children and young people, which employed participatory, visual, and creative methods. She is the co-convener of the British Sociological Association’s Visual Sociology Study Group and she has facilitated a number of international workshops on visual and creative methods. Dawn has recently written a sole authored text for Routledge (2016), ‘Visual, narrative and creative research methods: application, reflection and ethics’.


Level of study

Entry (no or almost no prior knowledge).



Varies according to status:

  • £195 - Government/commercial sector
  • £150 - Educational/charitable sector 
  • £110 - Students




Tea and coffee will be provided during breaks (lunch is not provided).

Please be aware that you may be required to bring your own laptop with any specified software already installed.

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