Using participant-empowered visual relationship timelines in a qualitative study of sexual behaviour

Tamar Goldenberg, Catherine Finneran, Karen L. Andes, Rob Stephenson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This study examines how the use of participant-empowered visual relationship timelines adds to the quality of an ongoing qualitative data collection in a case study examining the influence of emotions on sexual risk-taking and perceptions of HIV risk among men who have sex with men. Gay and bisexual men (n = 25) participated in a 10-week, three-phase study. During a baseline in-depth interview, participants created a visual timeline using labelled stickers to retrospectively examine their dating/sexual histories. Participants then completed three web-based quantitative personal relationship diaries, tracking sexual experiences during follow-up. These data were extracted and discussed in a timeline-based debrief interview. The visual cues assisted with data collection by prompting discussion through the immediate identification of patterns, opportunities for self-reflection, and rapport-building. The use of flexible data collection tools also allowed for a participant-empowered approach in which the participant controlled the interview process. Through this process, we learned strategies for improving a participant-empowered approach to qualitative research, including: allowing visual activities to drive the interview, using flexible guidelines to prompt activities, and using discrete imagery to increase participant comfort. It is important that qualitative data collection utilise more participatory approaches for gains in data quality and participant comfort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)699-718
Number of pages20
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - Jul 2 2016


  • Participatory
  • men who have sex with men
  • qualitative
  • timeline
  • visual


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