Dear Critics: Addressing Concerns and Justifying the Benefits of Photography as a Research Method

Kyle Elizabeth Miller


Photography serves as an important tool for researchers to learn about the contextualized lives of individuals. This article explores the process of integrating photo elicitation interviews (PEI) into research involving children and families. Much literature is dedicated to the general debate surrounding the ethics of visual methods in research, with little attention directed at the actual process of gaining study approval and publishing one's findings. There are two main critiques that researchers must face in order to conduct and disseminate studies involving visual images—ethics committees and peer reviewers. In this article, I identify and discuss some of the challenges that emerged across gaining protocol approval from an ethics committee in the United States. Ethical concerns and restrictions related to the use of photography can delay data collection and create barriers to research designs. Similarly, I describe the process of responding to reviewers' concerns as part of the publication process. Peer reviewers' lack of familiarity with the use of photography as a research tool may lead to misunderstandings and inappropriate requests for manuscript changes. While many concerns are sound, the range of benefits stemming from the use of visual data help to justify the time and energy required to defend this type of research. Implications are discussed for researchers using visual methods in their work.



visual methods; photo elicitation interviews; ethics in research; peer review

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Copyright (c) 2015 Kyle Elizabeth Miller

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