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REVIEW: Video in qualitative research: Analysing Social Interaction in Everyday Life

Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J., & Luff, P. (2010) Video in qualitative research: Analysing Social Interaction in Everyday Life. London: Sage.

While video has existed and has been used in research for some time, Heath, Hindmarsh, and Luff explain many of its applications in this methodology textbook. The strength of using video, they say, is its ability to capture social interaction in everyday situations. However, getting access to the video itself can be difficult. Getting access and using video in research presents an opportunity to gain a greater understanding of life and culture.

Because access and ethics are such great issues with video research, the authors fittingly address them in the first chapter after the introduction. While gaining access to do typical participant observer research can be difficult, video recording the events being observed, and actually creating a record, can be a true challenge. The authors give a sample informed consent and a list of tips for fostering trust in the research subjects. These tips are good and help the researcher to assimilate into the culture of the research subject. This is particularly difficult in video research, because the researchers might be unseen, while in participant observer research, the researcher is always seen.

The authors suggest collecting data in phases. The researcher would collect and analyze data, then formulate new focuses or research questions to address in phase two, and advance further in a similar fashion for future phases. The brilliance of this idea should be applied more in research, as it allows the researcher to narrowly focus the inquiry to answer concerns that arise in analysis. While the ethnographer or interviewer could adapt to findings on the go, the video researcher cannot. By collecting data in waves, the video researcher can adjust the data collection scheme just as other qualitative researchers can. This method allows for theory building or expanded understanding about a topic, and allows video research to be as effective as a method.

The authors recommend traditional fieldwork in addition to video data collection. This, in my opinion, is essential. By doing traditional fieldwork, the researcher can connect with the subjects to gain their trust and to understand their ways of thinking and speaking. This is especially important when the researcher reviews video for data, because the researcher will need to understand the social system of the scene to know the key players and the means of interaction.

The notion of asking “Why that now?” in regard to occurrences within the data struck me as profound in the sense that it is the essence of observational research. However, the strength of video is the ability to move backward and forward in time to review behaviors to answer why that now. By adding time to the analysis, the researcher is able to observe events in the moment when they occur.

Ultimately, this book serves as a guide for finding answers in social interaction and communication through video. This method requires researcher to put forth ample effort to make the study effective and ethical. However, researchers can gain substantial data quickly by using video to record scenes. This book does a great job at explaining the means for collecting data and analyzing it through notes and coding.  It explains the added dimension video gives to participant observation through an additional record, and shows the strength of data that can be obtained when a watching researcher cannot be present, as well as the additional understanding that can come when a researcher watches a situation from the outside.

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