Body Mapping in Research

  • Bronwyne CoetzeeEmail author
  • Rizwana Roomaney
  • Nicola Willis
  • Ashraf Kagee
Reference work entry


This chapter describes the methodology of body mapping, a visual technique that is used to collect qualitative data from participants about their subjective experiences pertaining mainly to bodily experiences. We begin with a definition of body mapping and provide an account of its history. We describe the process of conducting a body mapping study and offer some examples of when this approach is used most appropriately in its various forms. In preparing to use a body mapping approach, researchers should be mindful of whether body mapping is the best approach to answer the research question; whether the purpose of the body map been made clear in the study; whether it is an appropriate technique to use with participants; what other qualitative methods will be used in conjunction with body mapping; how many contact sessions will be required with participants; how structured the body mapping sessions will be; and how the data will be analyzed. We provide a detailed example of how to conduct a body mapping study and call attention to important considerations such as ensuring methodological rigor and the ethical aspects of using this approach. Body mapping is an innovative methodological technique that is often able to capture the imagination of research participants. Our aim in this chapter is to convince readers that body mapping has its place as a methodological approach alongside a range of other approaches in social and behavioral research.


Body mapping Research Methods Qualitative Visual methodology Social science 


  1. Apiyo, N. Ododo wa: our stories, Voices magazine, 2, October 24, 2012, 2012. Accessed 18 Dec 2012.
  2. Attride-Stirling J. Thematic networks: an analytic tool for qualitative research. Qual Res. 2001;1(3):385–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Braque G. The moon, the stars and a scar: body mapping stories of women living with HIV/AIDS. Border Cross Mag Arts. 2008;27(1):58–65.Google Scholar
  4. Braun V, Clarke V. Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qual Res Psychol. 2006;3(2):77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Brett-Maclean P. Body mapping: embodying the self living with HIV/AIDS. CMAJ. 2009;180(7):740–1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cornwall A. Body mapping: bridging the gap between biomedical messages, popular knowledge and lived experience. In: Cornwall A, Welbourne A, editors. Realizing rights: transforming approaches to sexual and reproductive well-being. London: Zed Books; 2002. p. 219–34.Google Scholar
  7. Crawford A. If ‘the body keeps the score’: mapping the dissociated body in trauma narrative, intervention, and theory. UTQ Univ Tor Q. 2010;79(2):702–19.Google Scholar
  8. Cresswell J. Qualitative inquiry and research design: choosing among five traditions. 3rd ed. Thousand Oaks: Sage; 2014.Google Scholar
  9. Crivello G, Camfield L, Woodhead M. How can children tell us about their wellbeing? Exploring the potential of participatory research approaches within young lives. Soc Indic Res. 2009;90(1):51–72.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gastaldo D, Magalhaes L, Carrasco C, Davy C. Body-map story telling as research: Methodological considerations for telling the stories of undocumented workers through body mapping. Toronto. 2012. Available at: Accessed 12 July 2015.
  11. Greenhalgh T. Storytelling should be targeted where it is known to have greatest added value. Med Educ. 2001;35(9):818–9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Griffin SM. Meeting musical experience in the eye: resonant work by teacher candidates through body mapping. Visions of Research in Music Education, 24. 2014. Retrieved from
  13. Jackson H, Willis N, Dziwa C, Mawodzeke M, Pascoe M, Sherman J. Zvandiri: Supporting children and adolescents with HIV through the HIV care continuum. Harare, Zimbawe: Africaid; 2015.Google Scholar
  14. Joarder T, Cooper A, Zaman S. Meaning of death: an exploration of perception of elderly in a bangladeshi village. J Cross Cult Gerontol. 2014;29(3):299–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Liamputtong P. Qualitative research methods. 4th ed. Melbourne: Oxford University Press; 2013.Google Scholar
  16. Lincoln YS, Guba EG. Naturalistic inquiry. Beverly Hills: Sage; 1985.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. MacGregor HN. Mapping the body: tracing the personal and the political dimensions of HIV/AIDS in khayelitsha, south africa. Anthropol Med. 2009;16(1):85–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Maina G, Sutankayo L, Chorney R, Caine V. Living with and teaching about HIV: engaging nursing students through body mapping. YNEDT Nurse Educ Today. 2014;34(4):643–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mellins C, Malee K. Understanding the mental health of youth living with perinatal HIV infection: lessons learned and current challenges. J Int AIDS Soc. 2013;16(00):18593. Scholar
  20. Morgan A. What is narrative therapy. An easy-to-read introduction. Adelaide: Dulwich Centre Publications; 2000. p. 11–32.Google Scholar
  21. Morgan J, the Bambanani women’s group. Long life: positive HIV stories. Cape Twon: Double Storey Books; 2003.Google Scholar
  22. Patel V, Flisher AJ, Hetrick S, McGorry P. Mental health of young people: a global public-health challenge. Lancet. 2007;369(9569):1302–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Santen B. Into the fear-factory: connecting with the traumatic core. Person-Centered Exp Psychother. 2014;13(2):75–93.Google Scholar
  24. Sawyer SM, Afifi RM, Bearinger LH, Blakemore S-J, Dick B, Ezeh AC, Patton GC. Adolescence: a foundation for future health. Lancet. 2012;379(9826):1630–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Scientific Software Development. ATLAS.ti. Berlin. 2003. Retrieved from
  26. Senior K, Helmer J, Chenhall R, Burbank V. ‘Young clean and safe?’ young people’s perceptions of risk from sexually transmitted infections in regional, rural and remote Australia. Cult Health Sex. 2014;16(4):453–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Silva-Segovia J. The face of a mother deprived of liberty: imprisonment, guilt, and stigma in the norte grande, chile. Affilia J Women Soc Work. 2016;31(1):98–111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Solomon J. A body mapping journey in the time of HIV and AIDS. A facilitation guide – psychosocial wellbeing series. Johannesburg: REPSSI; 2002.Google Scholar
  29. Sweet EL, Ortiz Escalante S. Bringing bodies into planning: visceral methods, fear and gender violence. Urban Stud. 2015;52(10):1826–45.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Tarr J, Thomas H. Mapping embodiment: methodologies for representing pain and injury. Qual Res. 2011;11(2):141–57.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. White M, Epston D. Narrative means to therapeutic ends. New York: WW Norton & Company; 1990.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Bronwyne Coetzee
    • 1
    Email author
  • Rizwana Roomaney
    • 1
  • Nicola Willis
    • 2
  • Ashraf Kagee
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of PsychologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa
  2. 2.Zvandiri HouseHarareZimbabwe

Personalised recommendations