Reflective Research Methods

Reflective research methods are used by both researchers and participants to record events and experiences and their meanings. Research participants are asked to reflect on particular questions over a longer period of time, often providing them with tools to capture these reflections. This is particularly useful for topics that unfold over time, where the researcher cannot be present for the whole duration. Ethnographic researchers also use reflective methods to think about how they themselves experience the research process and how that might introduce biases.

Fieldnote diaries

Also known as Journals

This method involves written observations kept by researchers to record detailed notes during or immediately following participant- observations in the field. These can be supplemented by photography and/or video.

Field notes diaries

Participant diaries

Also known as Diary Studies or self-documentation Studies

These are used to collect data about participants’ behaviors, activities, and experiences. This data is self-reported by participants longitudinally over an extended period ranging from a few days to a month or even longer. Diaries can be used as memory aids during interviews or data analysis or can become research artifacts in themselves.

Cultural probes
Image courtesy of Cyber Rwanda

Participant packs

Also known as Cultural Probes

This method is used when research participants are given kits for self-documentation of meaningful thoughts, events, experiences, places, people, etc., using various materials or forms (e.g. journals, diaries, annotated maps, disposable cameras, photos, etc.). Participants use these in their own time to record events or experiences in visual or written ways, generating exploratory insight into their cultural contexts and subjective experiences.

Cultural probes
Image courtesy of Pathways


Verbal research

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Participatory research

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Gamified research

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Data analysis

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