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Creative Research Methods

Course Dates and Times

Date: Monday 22 – Friday 26 July 2024
Time: 13:00 – 16:00 CEST

Elisabetta Ferrari

University of Glasgow

This course will provide you with a highly interactive online teaching and learning environment, using state of the art online pedagogical tools. It is designed for a demanding audience (researchers, professional analysts, advanced students) and capped at a maximum of 16 participants so that the teaching team can cater to the specific needs of everyone.

Purpose of the Course

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • critically evaluate different creative research methods and assess their suitability for your research projects;
  • develop research designs that include creative methods and implement them;
  • assess the ethical implications of creative research methods and address them in your research designs; and
  • apply analytical techniques to creative research data.
ECTS Credits

4 credits - Engage fully in class activities and complete a post-class assignment

Instructor Bio

Elisabetta Ferrari is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Sociology at the University of Glasgow, UK.

Her research takes a comparative and critical approach to examine the social and political implications of digital technologies, with a focus on grassroots activism. She is currently working on a comparative project about mutual aid activism across the U.S, the U.K., and Italy, which is funded by the British Academy. Her work draws on qualitative and interpretive methods, with a specific interest in creative methodological approaches.

Prior to joining Glasgow, she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Digital Studies Institute at the University of Michigan and at the Center on Digital Culture and Society at the University of Pennsylvania. She holds a PhD in Communication from the University of Pennsylvania.


Key topics covered

Day 1: Overview and introduction

Exploring the contribution of creative methods to research in the social sciences and assessing the motivations behind the use of creative methods: what can they help us answer? You will discuss the relationship between creative approaches and qualitative methods, and consider logistical issues in the implementation of creative approaches.

*Sample readings:

  • Bagnoli, A. (2009). Beyond the standard interview: The use of graphic elicitation and arts-based methods. Qualitative Research, 9(5), 547–570.
  • Hicks, A., & Lloyd, A. (2018). Seeing information: Visual methods as entry points to information practices. Journal of Librarianship and Information Science, 50(3), 229–238.

Post-session exercise: Research questions for creative methods

Day 2: Creative approaches in interview settings

You will learn about the different types of creative tasks that can be used in the context of individual qualitative interviews. Focusing on mental mapping and its many applications, you will consider the strengths and limitations of these techniques and their suitability for different types of research topics and populations.

*Sample readings:

  • Gieseking, J. J. (2013). Where we go from here: The mental sketch mapping method and its analytic components. Qualitative Inquiry, 19(9), 712–724.
  • Jung, H. (2014). Let their voices be seen: Exploring mental mapping as a feminist visual methodology for the study of migrant women. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 38(3), 985–1002.

Post-session exercise: Cognitive mapping design for your research project

Day 3: Creative approaches in group settings

Explore different ways in which creative tasks can be used in group settings, such as workshops and focus groups. You will concentrate on visual focus groups as a novel method that embeds a collective drawing task in the context of a focus group. You will consider the strengths and limitations of these techniques and their suitability for different types of research topics and populations.

*Sample readings:

  • Ferrari, E. (2022). Visual focus groups: Stimulating reflexive conversations with collective drawing. New Media & Society.
  • Jackson Foster, L. J., Deafenbaugh, L., & Miller, E. (2018). Group metaphor map making: Application to integrated arts-based focus groups. Qualitative Social Work, 17(2), 305–322.
  • Haimson, O. L., Gorrell, D., Starks, D. L., & Weinger, Z. (2020). Designing Trans Technology: Defining Challenges and Envisioning Community-Centered Solutions. Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems - Proceedings, 1–13.

Post-session exercise: Visual focus group design for your research project

Day 4: Hands-on session

Depending on interests, there will either be a speculative visual focus group or individual interviews with cognitive mapping. You will have a chance to experience what creative methods look like from the perspective of both researchers and research participants. More details about this session will be discussed at the beginning of the course and the activities will take into account individual preferences.

Post-session exercise: Draft reflective memo

Day 5: Ethical considerations and analytical strategies

Finally, you will be encouraged to think critically about the ethics of doing creative research. You will consider the ethical challenges that these creative methods can pose for us, either as standalone methods or in conjunction with other qualitative methods. Reflection on how to address these ethical issues before, during and after data collection will be required. You will go on to discuss how to analyse the data that you collect through creative tasks and how to relate these creative outputs to other data sources.

*Sample readings:

  • Cuthbert, K. (2022). Researching ‘non-sexualities’ via creative notebooks: Epistemology, embodiment and empowerment. Qualitative Research, 22(6), 897–915.
  • Silverio, S. A., Sheen, K. S., Bramante, A., Knighting, K., Koops, T. U., Montgomery, E., November, L., Soulsby, L. K., Stevenson, J. H., Watkins, M., Easter, A., & Sandall, J. (2022). Sensitive, Challenging, and Difficult Topics: Experiences and Practical Considerations for Qualitative Researchers. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 21, 160940692211247.

Post-session exercise: Draft analytical memo on one output.

*Readings and exercises may be subject to change.

How the course will work online

The course will be delivered through Zoom.

You will participate in the course in different ways:

  • Independent reading (in advance of the course and before class).
  • Live seminars, including small group discussions and activities (180 minutes each day).
  • Post-session exercises: (30-45 minutes).

The instructor will also conduct live Q&A sessions and offer designated office hours for one-to-one consultations.

While prior knowledge of qualitative methods is beneficial, it is not mandatory. Bringing your research topic or questions to the course is encouraged, but not mandatory. The course requires an approximate time commitment of 40 hours, which includes reading materials and participating online.


This course description may be subject to subsequent adaptations (e.g. taking into account new developments in the field, participant demands, group size, etc.). Registered participants will be informed at the time of change.

By registering for this course, you confirm that you possess the knowledge required to follow it. The instructor will not teach these prerequisite items. If in doubt, please contact us before registering.