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Using Photographs to Understand the Context of Health: A Novel Two-Step Systematic Process for Coding Visual Data

  • Jih, Jane
  • Nguyen, Antony
  • Woo, Jasmin
  • Ly, Alison
  • Shim, Janet K
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2023
eScholarship - University of California
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In qualitative research, photographs and other visual data have been used with oral narratives in ethnography, interviews, and focus groups to convey and understand the perceptions, attitudes, and lived experiences of participants. Visual methodologies that incorporate photographic data include photo elicitation, which has varied approaches with the inclusion of photographs generated by researchers or participants, and Photovoice, which is a form of photo elicitation focused on participatory action research. Current literature provides insufficient guidance on a systematic coding process of visual data elements that could maximize capturing of visual data for qualitative analysis. We describe our rationale and process for developing a two-step systematic process for coding visual data, specifically photographs. The two-step systematic process for coding photographs involves coding the foreground (focal point) and then the background of the photograph, using separate codebooks. Application of this two-step coding approach resulted in surfacing additional rich data on the health-related contexts and environments in which participants lived. Incorporation of this methodology could enhance understanding of the context of health and generate ideas and new directions of inquiry.

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