The use of visual stimulus as a methodology for research with marginalised communities

Jane Wilkinson, Ninetta Santoro, Kiprono Langat, Jeanette Major

Research output: Other contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


This paper details the qualitative methodological approaches adopted in an ethnographic case study of regionally-located students from African refugee backgrounds who had been nominated as achieving success educationally. A principal aim of the study was to challenge prevailing understandings of this group of students as educationally ‘deficit’. It does so by focusing on students’ resilience and the contribution of families and community groups to the generation of capitals that have allowed the students to positively engage with, and participate in, Australian education. Hence, it was critical that we adopted an overall methodological approach that facilitated this aim.
Moreover, methodological considerations were critical in order to carry out research with marginalised young people that was inclusive, engendered trust and ‘’humanised’, rather than colonised, participants (Paris, 2011). The paper details the research process by which we aimed to achieve these goals, including the formation of an advisory group composed of community representatives; the conducting of in depth, semi structured interviews with students and their caregivers; and the collection of observational data of students’ activities including their participation in sport, a variety of community and recreational groups, and church groups.
In particular, however, the paper focuses on the use of photographs taken by participants to record events, people and places of significance to them, as a critical first phase of data collection. This visual stimulus method was a crucial means by which to elicit ‘focused discussions’ with participants about a range of experiences using ‘authentic’ visual stimulus (Edwards-Groves with Murray, 2008). Secondly, they provided a useful tool by which deeper understandings of issues such as family reunion, integration into new communities, and the generation of capitals via a range of community networks, could be explored than via interview alone (Edwards-Groves with Murray, 2008). Finally, they provided a critical means by which participants were supported in the research process in ways that ‘built capacity’ (Edwards-Groves with Murray, 2008) and challenged asymmetrical power relations between researchers and participants.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2011


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