The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Power of visual thinking

Simplicity was key to Kevin Duncan's talk at the latest Spark: how simple diagrams can help not just focus a pitch and win business, but help at the analysis and debrief stage, too.

Finding better ways to illustrate debriefs and presentations is a continuing development process for researchers, whether quantitative or qualitative. So when I saw the latest Spark event on visual thinking I was interested to see what ideas I could gather on how to be more visual. I’ll be honest, I was expecting more colourful and complicated visuals rather than the simple diagrams that formed the basis of this talk. However, as the session progressed and Kevin Duncan explained his ideas and diagrams it became clear how useful these simple visuals could be. He is a very engaging and humorous presenter and clearly knows his stuff. The anecdotes he gave from his planning days added interest and depth to these ideas.

Much of the emphasis of the event was on using these diagrams to help focus a pitch and win business. I feel that using them could be extremely helpful in focusing my thoughts during the analysis and debrief stages of research. As qualitative researchers we are not primed to think in numbers, our data are the conversations, discussions and stories that we hear.

Ploughing through the transcripts and notes can sometimes feel like drowning but finding simple visuals to help organise all these themes and thoughts can be a fundamental and useful part of the process. At the end of our analysis we have to follow through and present logical, objective and actionable information back to our clients and we need visuals that help us deliver without overshadowing the content of our findings. This is where the simplicity of the message and visuals shared by Kevin come into their own and I found that some of the visuals took me back to the basics of what we need to focus on — to cut the padding and explain the core recommendations to our clients — clearly and simply.

Being given a copy of The Diagrams Book to take away was great and it provides far more diagrams than could be covered in the session — definitely food for thought.

 

Carol McCloskey
Copyright © Association for Qualitative Research, 2016