Marginalized engineering students' narrative construction through photo elicitation

Debalina Maitra, Brooke Coley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The goal of this study is to explore an immediate step in understanding the lived experiences of under-represented students through metaphor construction and possibly collect more in-depth data through photograph-based interviews. Design/Methodology/Approach: This article introduced photo-elicitation based narrative interviews as a qualitative methodology while interviewing fourteen undergraduate community college students mostly from underrepresented groups (URGs). At the beginning of each interview, the authors probed the participants with 8 photographs chosen by the research team to represent a diverse set of experiences in engineering. The authors conducted a thematic analysis of the interview data. Findings: The findings suggested that the inclusion of photo-elicitation often catalyzed consumption of representations, images, metaphors, and voice to stories passed unnoticed; and finally produces more detailed descriptions and complements semi-structured narrative interviews. Research Limitations/Implications: This study advances the scholarship that extends photograph driven interviews/photo elicitation methodology while interviewing marginalized population and offers a roadmap for what a multi-modal, arts-based analysis process might look like for in-depth interviews. Practical Implications: The use of photo-elicitation in our research enabled a deeper, more poignant exploration of the URG students' experience of navigating engineering. The participants were able to relate to the photographs and shared their life narratives through them; hence, use of photographs can be adapted in future research. Social Implications: Our research revealed that PEI has excellent potential to capture marginalized narratives of URGs, which is not well explored in educational research, specially, in higher education. In our research, PEI promoted more culturally inclusive approaches positioning the participants as experts of their own narratives. Originality/Value: The study presented in this paper serves as an example of qualitative research that expands methodological boundaries and centers the role of power, marginalization, and creativity in research. This work serves as a unique and important contribution to the photo-elicitation literature, offering a critical roadmap for researchers who are drawn to photo elicitation/photograph driven interviews as a method to explore their inquiry.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)448-463
Number of pages16
JournalQualitative Research Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 22 2022


  • Broadening participation in STEM
  • Community college students
  • Marginalized experiences in engineering
  • Photo elicitation
  • Photograph driven interviews
  • Rapport building
  • Underrepresented students

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Social Sciences(all)


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