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Visiting scholar shares arts-based approach to research

Oct 4, 2018

Students show off their collages

Photo above, from Left to Right – Karen Campbell (Nursing), Dr. Fiona Buchanan (University of South Australia), Danielle Bourque (Nursing), Carly Whitmore (Nursing), Elizabeth Orr (Nursing), Linda Nguyen (Rehabilitation Sciences) & Gita Wahi (Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact; Department of Pediatrics)

Dr. Fiona Buchanan, a visiting scholar from Australia, met with a group of graduate students on October 1 to share some of her creative tips on how to use art as a research tool.

Buchanan is a Senior Lecturer, School of Psychology, Social Work and Social Policy, University of South Australia, Adelaide. Her research focuses on how intimate partner violence affects women and children. She recently published a book titled “Mothering Babies in Domestic Violence: Beyond Attachment Theory”.

Buchanan uses a range of creative and arts-based strategies in her data collection methods. These strategies allow individuals to deeply reflect, construct and share their experiences.

The graduate students had a chance to try out some of these tools for themselves, including a personal collage-making project.

Eliabeth Orr and her collage

Photo above: Graduate student Elizabeth Orr sharing and discussing the themes in her collage

Dr. Susan Jack, Associate Professor in the School of Nursing, meets with this group of MSc and PhD students monthly. The group focuses on advancing their skills in qualitative health research.

Buchanan explained to the students that “art is a deep and meaningful method of self-expression” and that within the research process, researchers and participants can “uncover new knowledge while enabling participants to access feelings of emancipation, connection and empowerment. When we are studying sensitive and personal issues, by integrating methods of data collection that are empowering, it may help participants tell the unspeakable.”

Jack notes that “often in applied qualitative health research, researchers limit the tools they use to understand participants’ experiences, beliefs, perceptions to just conducting interviews, focus groups or analyzing documents. By adding arts-based approaches to data collection, it might allow us to understand individuals’ experiences of health or illness at a deeper level and create opportunities to explore the unexpected.” 

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