Co-authors Daria Khanolainen from the University of Jyväskylä and Elena Semenova from Kazan Federal University developed and piloted an innovative arts-based methodology for sensitive research.
The method is called graphic vignettes, and it looks like a set of incomplete comic strips which participants complete in a creative way. The researchers have just published two articles about the new method.
When designing the first set of graphic vignettes the researchers analysed the most common types of school bullying situations and presented them as simple graphic episodes. As a result of this work, the researchers designed four graphic vignettes.
Each participant then worked with the set of vignettes individually for 20 minutes. They could write and draw anything in order to create their own unique stories about bullying.
Thirty-nine secondary school students and 14 teachers from Russia participated in the pilot study.
Following this creative work participants were then invited for an in-depth interview.
Most participants easily went back and forth from discussing the vignettes' characters and abstract ideas to revealing deeply personal experiences and feelings.
This way participants shared the most common bullying situations that take place in their schools, discussing their nature and how students and teachers usually deal with them.
The new method also enabled participants to show how much empathy they feel for people who are bullied - an important predictor of being involved in bullying.
These results are in line with earlier evidence that arts-based research methodologies help participants open up and share important insights into sensitive topics.
The new method has already helped identify serious problems in the Russian context - teachers are often unaware of bullying and children don't feel safe enough to report instances of bullying.
Indeed, graphic vignettes proved to be a useful tool for comparative research highlighting how differently bullying can be understood and perceived by different people.
The new method could make a particularly valuable contribution to cross-cultural and international research.
Khanolainen, D. & Semenova, E., (2020) School Bullying Through Graphic Vignettes: Developing a New Arts-Based Method to Study a Sensitive Topic. International Journal of Qualitative Methods. doi.org/10.1177/1609406920922765