Collage as Method

30th August 2023

Lead institution:
The University of Manchester

Dr Amy Barron

Funded Project:
Methods for Change Phase 2

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Collage method used by Dr Amy Barron from the University of Manchester. The artwork was created in collaboration with Maddy Vian, Maddy Vian Illustration.

Social scientists from the Methods for Change project came together to discuss the research methods they use and how methods create change in society. Drawing from the expertise in the Aspect network, they collaborated on a series of ‘how to’ guides which are step-by-step instructions and top-tips for adopting these methods in a range of sectors. Visual and multisensory pieces, including comics, illustrations, posters, booklets, short films and animations were then developed in collaboration with creatives to capture the key value of these research methods with a view to being able to convey them to a variety of audiences.

It is hoped that these resources will be useful for people in higher education, commercial, public sector, third sector and community organisations who are interested in experimenting with, and expanding professional skills in, the adoption of social science research methods.

The Collage method involves creating a visual representation of a topic through the assembling of materials on to a backing. These materials (which might include paper, printed images, words, textile pieces stitched onto a fabric, photographs, found materials, or a combination of all of these) are arranged in a way that is meaningful to whoever is creating the collage: this can be the participant or researcher. 

Collage can be used as means of data collection whereby the researcher might ask questions about the research topic and the composition of materials as the participant creates their collage. If collaging is completed with several participants, observing and asking questions about qualities such as the layering of colours and the repetition and juxtaposition of materials can illuminate similarities and differences between participants. 

Collage can also be used in the process of data analysis whereby the researcher gathers materials collated over the course of a research project (transcripts, photographs, archives, newspaper cuttings and other types of mixed media) and creates a collage from them to make sense of the materials. By using collaging in this way, a participatory dimension can be introduced into the process of analysis, whereby the researcher and participants create a collage and make sense of the materials together. The resulting collage can be used as a ‘way in’ to exploring a topic with other participants or to communicate ideas to different audiences. Collage is an accessible method that can be used to prompt conversations with people of varying abilities, in group activities, or one to one.

Collage as Method

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