Qualitative Methods

6. Visual Data

When people interact face to face, they do not use merely verbal cues. Researchers who work with visual data have access to many of these cues. Think of the potential of studying how surgical teams coordinate their actions during an operation or the exchange of looks between patients and doctors in general practice. However, as we shall see, complicated data can often mean complicated problems!

It is not easy to organize the technical aspects of recording human interaction, nor are such data easy to transcribe and rigorously analyze.

The illustration below gives one relevant example.

Heath (2004) discusses a medical consultation with a female patient complaining of pain in her knee. Towards the end of the consultation, the doctor begins to prepare a prescription. As he starts to write, the patient, who is still standing following the physical examination, begins to tell a story.

Extract 3 shows how she tells her story. Her words are transcribed using the conventions explained in the Transcription Symbols section.

In addition, however, Extract 3 shows both body movements and the direction of the participant’s gaze (marked as 'up' or 'down' below).

Extract 3 [Heath (2004:274): Fragment 1, (adapted)]
         up             down     up     down     up     down     up down
P:     I was coming up the steps li:ke this all the way up I felt

Dr:   writes                 turns to     turns to         nods and
prescription      P's face     P's legs         smiles

Illustration: Communicating with Patients: the Body in Action
<a href="/longdesc/Silverman_sec06_Dr-PatientIllustration.html">Flash Description</a>

Flash is not available on mobile devices. Please view the Flash Description.

Heath, C. (2004). Analysing face-to-face interaction: Video, the visual and material. In D. Silverman (Ed.) Qualitative research (2nd Ed.), London: Sage: 266-82.

Table 6

Transcript Conventions

Symbol Example Explanation
C2: quite a [ while
Mo: [ yeah
Left brackets indicate the point at which a current speaker’s talk is overlapped by another's talk. 
] C2: and i thought] 
Mo: you said]
Right brackets indicate the point at which two overlapping utterances end.  
= W: that I'm aware of =
C: =Yes. Would you confirm that?
Equal signs, one at the end of a line and one at the beginning, indicate no gap between the two lines.
(.4) Yes (.2) yeah Numbers in parentheses indicate elapsed time in silence in tenths of a second.
(.) to get (.) treatment A dot in parentheses indicates a tiny gap, probably no more than one-tenth of a second.
_______ What's up? Underscoring indicates some form of stress via pitch and/or amplitude.
:: O:kay? Colons indicate prolongation of the immediately-prior sound. The length of the row of colons indicates the length of the prolongation.
WORD I've got ENOUGH TO WORRY ABOUT Capitals, except at the beginnings of lines, indicate especially loud sounds relative to the surrounding talk.
.hhhh I feel that (.2) .hhh A row of h's prefixed by a dot indicates an inbreath; without a dot, an outbreath. The length of the row of h's indicates the length of the in- or outbreath.
( ) future risks and ( ) and life ( ) Empty parentheses indicate the transcriber’s inability to hear what was said.
(word) Would you see (there) anything positive Parenthesized words are possible hearings.
(( )) confirm that ((continues)) Double parentheses contain author's descriptions rather than transcriptions.
 - talking about-
A hyphen after a word or part of a word indicates a cutoff or self interruption, often done with a glottal or dental stop.


C2: and then° I remember The degree sign indicates that the talk following it was markedly quiet or soft.
_: or : C2: In the gy:m? If the letter(s) preceeding a colon is underlined, it indicates the pitch turning downwards.
>< >we were just< "Greater than" and "less than" carrots in this order indicate that the talk between them is rushed or compressed.  
<>   "Less than" and "greater than" carrots in this order indicate that the talk between them is markedly slow.  

↓ or ↑

↓are you↓

The up and down arrows mark sharp rises or falls in pitch or may mark a whole shift or resetting of the pitch.
# # it was in the Indicates a rasping or 'creaky' voice quality.


£ it was so

Indicates the speaker is smiling while speaking.