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Conducting collage elicitation research online: what happens when we remove the scissors and glue?

Jo McMillan-Chabot (School of Education, The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 2 April 2024




This autoethnographic article presents the adaptation of collage—an arts-based method traditionally used in face-to-face settings—into an online research tool. It emphasizes the increased relevance of such a transition in the wake of the digital shift and the Covid-19 pandemic. The work aims to reveal how digital collages can facilitate in-depth participant responses in a time when conventional research settings are inaccessible.


The article incorporates autoethnographic vignettes, which are identified in italics, that offer insights into my personal reflections on the transition and adaptation to an online mode. Firstly, I review how collage can be a valuable tool to include in focus groups and for elicitation during semi-structured interviews. Secondly, I review the challenges I experienced when conducting focus groups online to create the collages. Thirdly, I explore, in more detail, three examples of collages that reflect the diverse ranges that were produced and the insightful discussions that emerged from the participants describing the visual elements of their collages. Finally, the reflective nature of my autoethnographic vignettes provides an insight into the world of the researcher during this turbulent time.


Findings show that collage, whether physical or digital, remains an effective tool for eliciting nuanced understandings from participants. The research contributes to the arts-based research narrative by showcasing how the digital adaptation of collage methods can yield profound insights into participants' perspectives, therefore enriching the data beyond what traditional interviews could unveil.


These observations can provide support for other researchers who are contemplating the adoption of online arts-based research methods. Understanding how traditionally face-to-face arts-based research methods can be adapted for the digitally evolving landscape is important for shaping the future of online research.



McMillan-Chabot, J. (2024), "Conducting collage elicitation research online: what happens when we remove the scissors and glue?", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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