Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods on Human Resource Management
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Handbook of Qualitative Research Methods on Human Resource Management

Innovative Techniques

Edited by Keith Townsend, Rebecca Loudoun and David Lewin

This Handbook explores the opportunities and challenges of new technologies for innovating data collection and data analysis in the context of human resource management. Written by some of the world’s leading researchers in their field, it comprehensively explores modern qualitative research methods from good project design, to innovations in data sources and data collection methods and, finally, to best-practice in data analysis.
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Chapter 11: Using photo-elicitation to understand experiences of work–life balance

Catherine Cassell, Fatima Malik and Laura S. Radcliffe


Recent times have seen an increased use of visual methods throughout the social sciences including the management and organisational domain (Davison et al., 2012). However, the use of photographic methods in human resource management (HRM) more generally is not as evident. Yet the opportunity of generating rich qualitative data from the use of photographs, otherwise not produced using alternative methodological approaches (Clark-Ibanez, 2004, p. 1524), has great potential for HRM, organisational and management researchers (Harper, 2002; Ray and Smith, 2012; Warren, 2002, 2008). There are different ways of using photographs as part of a research study. Researchers can use photo documentary through taking their own photographs of research sites or can analyse already existing photographs, for example, those in company documents. They can also ask research participants to take their own photographs. Within this chapter, we explore the use of participant photo-elicitation methods in studying how people manage their daily episodes or incidences of work–life balance. Participant photo-elicitation methods rely upon research participants taking their own photographs of a subject as guided by the researcher(s). In addressing this particular technique, we explore some important methodological issues for HRM researchers who seek to use these methods and explain how this type of methodology has much to offer when studying HR issues such as work–life balance. We conclude that one of the major benefits of this method is the role of photographs as a “conversational technology” (Gammack and Stephens, 1994, p. 76) in encouraging participants to talk and reflect.

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