This week our exploration takes us to the Morgan Centre for Research into Everyday Lives at the University of Manchester. The Centre was founded in 2005 as a centre of excellence for research in the fields of personal life, relationships, and everyday life and its research focuses on everyday life issues pertaining to the study of intimacy, relationships, and personal life. Details of the specific projects it is undertaking can be found on its website but topics include studies of civil partnerships and same sex marriage, the kinship implications of assisted reproductive technologies, and the growing incidence of shared living arrangements. The cross cutting research themes for the Centre are sexuality, gender, life course and generation.

The reason I’m including the Centre in the Wednesday Explorations is because of the range of toolkits which it has developed and made available freely via its website. A few weeks ago Wednesday Explore took us to the National Centre for Research Methods and the Morgan Centre has hosted two ‘Nodes’ of National Centre for Research Methods. The toolkits are derived from the ESCR Real Life Methods project which ran from 2008 – 2011 as a collaboration between the Universities of Manchester and Leeds. Whilst the project ended in 2011 the toolkits are all available to download and as they focus on methods and aspects of the research process are still pertinent to health researchers.

There are 18 Toolkits in total some of which focus on specific methods and others on different aspects of the research process. Examples of methods toolkits include:

unspecified-3Using Diaries in research with people with dementia which provides insights into the experience of using diaries with this group of people explaining why and how they were used, giving some insights into what kind of data was obtained from written, photo and audio diaries and some advantages and potential problems. Sample instructions are also included which are helpful to anyone thinking of using diaries and wanting ideas about how to explain what to do to participants.

Using participatory visual methods draws on the experiences of researchers in a project designed to challenge stereotypes of older women, “Representing Self – Representing Ageing. It provides an overview of participatory visual methods and details of how art and photography were used with 3 groups of older women to explore this topic.

Using walking interviews draws on the experiences of researchers investigating networks, neighbourhoods and communities and explains what walking interviews are, why they were used in this project, how the method was developed and the lessons learnt.

Other toolkits explore music elicitation, self-interviews, participant produced videos and participatory mapping. The great thing about the methods toolkits is that they are all informed by the experiences of researchers working on ESRC funded projects and therefore provide a first hand insight into the realities and practicalities of using the methods.

unspecifiedAlongside the methods toolkits are a number of toolkits addressing different aspects of the research process. Examples include

Putting on an exhibition about your research

Informed consent for visual research

Using an external agency or individual to transcribe your data

Transcribing your own qualitative data

If you are wanting to explore or expand your qualitative methods beyond using semi-structured interviews and focus groups and move towards more participatory methods the toolkits are worth exploring. They will provide you with an introduction and suggest further reading if you want to dig deeper.