The Association for Qualitative Research
The Hub of Qualitative Thinking

Role play

A technique in which research participants, usually within a group setting, are asked to act out a role and thereby open up some process, or relationship, to discussion by the group. So, for example, two respondents might act out a doctor-patient consultation regarding a certain complaint, or an encounter between a parent and child over a particular issue. More unusually, respondents can be asked to perform as if they were themselves a specific brand - acting out for example the way a brand of painkiller deals with a headache.

Role play needs careful introduction and sensitive handling, since many people are reluctant to perform this kind of task. Handled well, though, it can prove amusing and enjoyable for participants, in the process proving highly instructive.

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