Research Method: Gentle Methodologies

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25th March 2021

This ‘how to’ guide outlines the gentle methodologies research method used by Laura Pottinger from the University of Manchester. The film was created in collaboration with Stephen Miller, the printed manifesto by Nell Smith and graphic design from Samuel de Tomasi.

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.

Funded Project:
Methods for Change

Research Method: Gentle Methodologies

A Gentle Methodology offers an approach for designing research that is sensitive, collaborative, and careful, and which can attune to small-scale, mundane and non-verbal detail. Gentleness is understood as a particular orientation towards participants, materials and oneself in planning, carrying out and representing research with individuals, groups and environments. It can be useful to think about Gentle Methodologies as bringing together three key components: 1) the body; 2) pace; and 3) sharing.

As a methodology (rather than a method) this approach offers a particular way of thinking about or framing participatory and ethnographic research. Gentle Methodologies can therefore bring together an array of different methods. These are often focused on doing activities (which will vary depending on the research context) together with participants, over an extended timeframe where possible. Gentle Methodologies have an ethical commitment to treating research participants, places and materials with care, minimising disruption, and contributing in a meaningful way to the objectives and priorities of those involved in the research. They are particularly useful for shedding light on lived experience and subtle detail, and for understanding what is important to people in their everyday lives.

Click here to download the poster

You can find all the research outputs from the Methods for Change series here



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Should we spend more time talking about methods?

This blog by the Methods for Change team, illustrated by Jack Brougham, asks if we should spend more time talking about the methods we use as researchers. Drawing on a recent paper, we suggest that researchers need to articulate why methods matter in creating change to global challenges. We share three creative techniques that we have experimented with across the Methods for Change project that can encourage playful, reflective conversation about methods and their role in galvanising change.

Collaborative Zine Making Method

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Collaborative Zine Making Method used by Professor Sarah Marie Hall from the University of Manchester and developed in collaboration with Inspire Women Oldham. The zine was also created in collaboration with Inspire Women Oldham.

Oral Histories of Sensory Memories

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Oral Histories of Sensory Memories method used by Associate Professor Roisin Higgins from Maynooth University, Republic of Ireland. The poster was created in collaboration with Maddy Vian, Maddy Vian Illustrations.

Pop-up Stall Method

This ‘How-To’ Guide outlines the Pop-up Stall method used by Dr Robert Meckin and Dr Andrew Balmer from the University of Manchester. The poster was created in collaboration with Maddy Vian, Maddy Vian Illustrations.