Engaging: The Choice and Use of Participatory Methods

  • Tineke Abma
  • Sarah Banks
  • Tina Cook
  • Sónia Dias
  • Wendy Madsen
  • Jane Springett
  • Michael T. Wright

Chapter Summary


The process of engaging people in the research of their lives or work involves a participatory approach to data collection, or what is often understood in participatory research as “data generation.” Engaging people in data collection or generation requires the creation of “communicative space”, and the use of methods that facilitate learning and mutual understanding. Such a process is often non-linear and messy, which is not a threat but a natural part of the process. Reasons for a participatory approach to data collection and/or data generation are set out and examples are given. Data generation evolves through storytelling, questioning and dialogue and critical reflection on action among those participating.


Most people know about more conventional research methods, methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups. There are many good text books that will help you with this. This chapter will help you think about the notion of “method”, what the purpose of method is, and in what ways we might collect and generate data in line with the values of a participatory approach.

Central Question

How to facilitate the process of engaging people in data collection and/or data generation as inquiry into their own lives and work?


Data Collection and Generation Communicative Space Engagement Method Messiness 

Further Reading and Sources of Inspiration

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tineke Abma
    • 1
  • Sarah Banks
    • 2
  • Tina Cook
    • 3
  • Sónia Dias
    • 4
  • Wendy Madsen
    • 5
  • Jane Springett
    • 6
  • Michael T. Wright
    • 7
  1. 1.Amsterdam Public Health Research InstituteVU University Medical CentreAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of SociologyDurham UniversityDurhamUK
  3. 3.Department of Disability and EducationLiverpool Hope UniversityLiverpoolUK
  4. 4.National School of Public HealthUniversidade Nova LisboaLisbonPortugal
  5. 5.School of Health, Medical & Applied SciencesCentral Queensland UniversityRockhamptonAustralia
  6. 6.Centre for Healthy Communities, School of Public HealthUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  7. 7.Institute for Social HealthCatholic University of Applied SciencesBerlinGermany

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