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Olive Bryanton,MEd,LLD
Project Coordinator PEI Centre on Health & Aging
310 Health Sciences Building UPEI Campus
550 University Ave.
Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3
Phone: 902-894-2841 902-675-4312
PhD Student, Faculty of Education, UPEI

Research Knowledge
Olive Bryanton 23539
University of Prince Edward Island
September 2015

Author Note

Olive Bryanton, Faculty of Education, University of Prince Edward Island
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to
Olive Bryanton, Faculty of Education, University of Prince Edward Island,
550 University Avenue Charlottetown, PE C1A 4P3


Research Knowledge

Phases of Data Collection and Analysis




My plan during this my PhD journey is to become an expert in photo voice research and older adult learning.  Although aging is an individual and unknown process impacted by health, socioeconomic factors, services and social supports, older adults often reach later life with little or no formal education on aging or guidance in aging. This results in individuals being less socially, emotionally or physically prepared for old age than they could be if they had knowledge about aging (McGuire and Klein, 2005; Neuvo, Wetherell, Montorio, Ruiz and Cabrera, 2009). As an older adult, I experience that lack of knowledge about aging and am working toward changing that reality.

In this research knowledge paper I intend to demonstrate my increasing knowledge and understanding of theory, research methodologies and methods, and data analysis. My overall goal is to advance my ability to produce original research of quality appropriate for publication in scholarly journals, to become a creative scholar engaged in research that focuses on older adult learning, and learn how community dwelling women age 85 and older maintain their independence without guidance or education on aging.

I have chosen this age and gender group because Canada is experiencing a rapid growth in population aging, and it is occurring more rapidly in Atlantic Canada than in the rest of the country (Shiner, 2007; Statistics Canada, 2013). Women age 85 and older are the segment of the population least likely recognized for their capacities and contributions to society, are one of the fastest growing segments of the population and this trend is expected to triple when boomers begin entering this age group in 2031 (Statistics Canada, 2012). Little is known about the experiences of these older women as they strive to navigate their daily lives, maintain their independence and continue living as active members in society. According to Silver (2003), these older women could be members of what is considered the fourth age which leads to an increasing segregation and depersonalization of the oldest old (85 years and older) –  mostly women who represent one of the fastest growing age group of the elderly population (p380).

The overall goal for my dissertation is to gain a greater understanding of aging through the eyes and voices of community dwelling women aged 85 and older on Prince Edward Island, Canada. My study will explore the experiences of women age 85 and older, living independently in the community, to discover what enables or prevents these women doing the things they need and want to do as they endeavour to maintain their independence and community connections. My study will also explore how these women get the information they need to seek services (available or not), develop coping strategies, and educate themselves to make informed decisions. To demonstrate my growth as a scholar I will use the following two artefacts:

            • ED 701 Paper – Exploring Qualitative Research Rigour and Credibility
            • Peer Reviewed Malta Paper, ELOA Conference University of Malta, Valletta Campus October 22 and 23 2014.

I have chosen those artefacts because they exhibit my increasing academic growth and understanding about research. From my early exploration of qualitative research rigour and credibility to the preparation of the peer-reviewed paper for a Malta conference, progress is demonstrated.

Artefact 1.1 Exploring Qualitative Research Rigour and Credibility. (CLICK HERE FOR PDF). It was during the preparation of this paper that I began to see the fit between my research questions and qualitative methodology. This paper taught me about the rigor of qualitative research inquiry, the importance of accurate transcribing and clarity of purpose because what people say and the descriptions of events observed are the essence of qualitative research. I was also introduced to the rigor of coding and interpretation all of which scared me but at the same time provided proof that this methodology was credible and provided in-depth information and sparked my interest to use qualitative methodology.

Artefact 2.1 Malta peer-reviewed paper “Empowering community dwelling women age 85 and older in maintaining their chosen lifestyle”. (CLICK HERE FOR PDF) The paper was developed drawing on survey data from the Atlantic Seniors Housing Research Alliance (ASHRA) 2007 housing survey. The survey focused on Atlantic Canadians age 65 and older and a total of 1670 independent individuals completed the survey providing their thoughts on a variety of topics related to housing: the type of housing and communities they live in; services and social supports; how they get to community services and activities; their subjective health status; education attainment and income levels. The details of the survey have been published elsewhere (Shiner, D.V., 2007). Overviews of the survey, its rationale and methods, can be located on the study website:

The data for the paper are for the women age 85 and older. The information profiled is on transportation and where the women went and how they got there from the perspective of the respondent as a driver or non- driver living in a rural or urban setting. There were 78 women age 85 and older from the four Atlantic Canadian provinces. This paper challenged me in a variety of ways including learning how to extract specific information from existing data, understanding how to format a research paper, reporting results and preparing an actual paper for peer-review which became part of the international conference proceedings and shared with all participants on CD’s.  I believe the two papers serve to demonstrate my progress as a scholar and illustrated my ability as a competent researcher.  But my knowledge continued to grow through further reading and reflection and this enabled me to prepare an outline to demonstrate my growing scholarship and my ability to conduct research at a higher level.

My research concentration is on women age 85 years and older living independently in the community and will explore the challenges and experiences of older women as they continue doing the things they want and need to do to maintain their independence and fulfill the role they envision for themselves.  My research will be guided by these three questions:

            1. What are the lived realities of community dwelling women age 85 and older on Prince Edward Island?
            1. What underlying social structures and government policies support or impede these aging women’s ability to remain in their community?
            1. How do women 85 and older obtain the information they need to deal with challenges of growing older in Prince Edward Island?

What follows is my understanding of the process I will need to follow to conduct the research I plan to do for my dissertation.


Participants will be recruited using the strategy of stratified purposeful sampling which is different than stratified random sampling in that the sample sizes are likely to be too small for generalization. Patton (2002) describes these as samples within samples and suggests that purposeful samples can be stratified or nested by selecting particular units or cases that vary according to a key dimension. Studying information-rich cases yields in-sights and in-depth understanding rather than empirical generalizations. Purposeful sampling focuses on selecting information-rich cases whose study will illuminate the questions under study (Patton, 2002. p. 230). My sample will comprise of 8 to 10 community-dwelling women 85 years and older from across the province. I will endeavour to include: the five regions on PEI (west prince, east prince, queens, southern kings and eastern kings), rural/urban locations, marital status, living arrangements, and socioeconomic status.


Qualitative methods are ways of finding out what people do, think and feel about their situation and experiences with life and produce detailed and in-depth information. Although there are many methods for gathering data in qualitative research, my critical focus on empowerment, collaboration and emancipation has led me to the use of an advocacy/participation form of inquiry which includes a critical social theory perspective to address social issues such as marginalization, oppression or inequality that may be experienced by independent community dwelling women age 85 and older living on Prince Edward Island. The photovoice method for data collection empowers by providing a voice to identify, name and illuminate what enables or obstructs ability to continue chosen lifestyles. Photovoice is based on Paulo Freire’s method of problem-posing that starts with issues that people see as central to their lives, and creates a common understandings through photographs and dialogue. Wang & Burris (1997) noted that:

Freire used line drawing or photographs that represented significant realities or coded situation-problems and suggested that photovoice takes this concept one step further so that the images of the community are made by the people themselves … because it is recognized that people often have an expertise and insight into their own communities and worlds that professionals and outsiders lack (p. 84).

By using photovoice as the method of inquiry, individual attention will focus on the experiences of the women by providing a non-threatening way to let them tell their story in a participatory process in which underserved individuals identify, represent, and enhance their lives and communities through photography (Wang, 1999; Andonian & MacRae, 2011; Rush, Murphy & Kozak, 2012). This process is based on the assumption that marginalized community members and their ideas are important and influential (Catalani & Minkler, 2010). Others note that the use of photovoice was to facilitate change and suggest that it aligns well with the social justice framework which emphasizes the facilitation of just conditions for individual and community well- being (Sanon, Evans-Agnew, & Boutain, 2014). This qualitative concept of investigation allows one to incorporate empowerment, collaboration and emancipation by integrating Freire’s theory of conscientization and dialogue, and his liberating education concept, where learning is done through examining and understanding situations from the prospective of the individual’s own world view. Having your own voice heard is empowering, which leads to emancipation and greater ability to make positive changes to a given situation when or where necessary.  Novek, Morris-Osweld & Mence (2012) note that this methodology provides an innovative approach to community-based gerontological research, but cautions there are a number of challenges to be overcome including recruitment, photography training, retrieving consent forms, and issues of time and distance. The process will be enhanced by incorporating critical educational gerontology/geragogy and critical feminist lenses to ensure age and gender issues are fully addressed.

Second Method of Inquiry – Critical Discourse Analysis

Aberdeen and Bye (2011) note that the aim of critical theory is to look beneath the surface of knowledge and reason, in order to see how they are distorted in an exploitative society, and to enable researchers to identify who gains and who loses in specific situations.  Drawing on the work of researchers Fairclough (1993, 1995, 2003), Bowen (2009), and Hyatt (2013) for this process I will use critical discourse analysis – a systematic procedure for reviewing or evaluating documents – to elicit meaning, gain understanding, and develop empirical knowledge. I will examine a current Prince Edward Island provincial document that has been created partly in response to an aging population. “Keep Moving on Life’s Journey”, the Chief Health Officer’s Report and Health Trends 2014, has a focus on healthy aging and is intended to provide information to the public and government in order to stimulate personal and policy decisions.  I will analyze section one: Aging and Frailty and examine three documents mentioned in the document including: the Healthy Aging Strategy (published in 2009) – that highlights health care system changes that are planned to care for aging Islanders; Seniors Preparing for Independent Retiring from Driving using Innovative Tools (SPIRIT) – a program to raise awareness about driving cessation; and the Active Living Coalition for Older Adults (ALCOA) – healthy living workshops for older adults. My analysis will be to discover when, why and for whose benefit these documents were developed, and how the documents could support or hamper the efforts of the independent community dwelling women in their efforts to maintain their status.


The study data and analysis will encompass three phases:

Phase 1 – Photovoice Introduction, Training, Ethics and Photography

Photovoice involves collecting data through a participatory research strategy and is an empowering method that allows individuals to reflect upon the strengths and concerns of issues in their community that impact their lives, and enables the possibility of perceiving the world from the viewpoint of the people who lead lives that are different from those traditionally in control of the means for imaging the world. Such an approach using visual images values the knowledge put forth by people as a vital source of expertise and is a process that can affirm the ingenuity and perspective of society’s most vulnerable populations (Wang & Burris, 1997). This fits well with Freire’s (2011) empowerment education theory that specializes in encouraging individuals to become vocal about the needs of the community.

Empowerment education begins with data collection that involves individuals going into their communities and taking pictures of their barriers and/or enablers. This is followed with sharing their photographs with the researcher, discussing why they chose that photograph and what it represents or describes to them.

This will be followed by group dialogue involving sharing with one another the meaning of the photographs and allows individuals to build upon each other’s issues or concerns.

For my study, the eligible participants will be community dwelling women age 85 and older with the physical and cognitive ability to participate in photovoice and focus group activities. I will use the photovoice method of inquiry but will diverge slightly from the Wang & Burris traditional photovoice procedure by adding a step of explaining the process to the participants individually as opposed to a group explanation.

The appropriate ethical considerations will be followed including: providing information about the research purpose and expectations, photography ethical considerations, training and clear instructions about camera usage, guidelines for photographs to take, response timeframe and individual and group processes.

Phase 2 – Participatory Analysis

This phase will include discussion of findings, shared experiences, impacts and learnings. The group meetings will initially review stories, discuss collective findings, discuss the impact the process had on their lives and how they might use this to enhance their own life. Kitzinger (1994) notes that group work ensures that priority is given to the respondents language and concepts, their framework for understanding the world… as compared with other forms of data collection, focus groups provide a forum for the participants to communicate with each other, to exchange ideas, and stimulate each other’s thinking, providing an opportunity for the researcher to ‘‘gather data on their shared perception’’ (Kitzinger, 1994, p. 108).  In participatory analysis, photovoice participants should be involved in a three-stage process that provides the foundation for analysis: selecting (choosing those photographs that most accurately reflect their situation); contextualizing (telling stories about what the photographs mean); and codifying (identifying those issues, themes, or theories that emerge). Photographs alone, considered outside the context of women’s own voices and stories, would contradict the essence of photovoice. The participatory approach gives multiple meanings to singular images and thus frames the third stage — codifying. In this stage participants may identify three types of dimensions that arise from the dialogue process: issues, themes, or theories. They may codify issues when the concerns targeted for action are pragmatic, immediate, and tangible. As predicted by Wang & Burris (1997), the process of these three stages enables us to hear and understand how people make meaning themselves or construct what matters to them. Photography provides the medium through which people’s visions and voices may surface.

Participant Interviews and Analysis

A commonly used method in photovoice is focus group discussion sessions. Use of focus groups brings together the concepts of Freire’s empowerment education and feminist theory’s cooperative learning by having participants involved in a dialogue, sharing ideas, and learning from their collective experiences. An important aspect of photovoice studies is that learning is not limited to the research team, as participants also learn from one another. The photographs are tangible artefacts of research data that serve as prompts for analysis with participants and enhances the scope and depth of what might be discussed in a traditional interview. This is an important step because it brings more equality to the researcher–participant relationship and, because participants prioritize the study findings, helps to bring an extra layer of validity to the results.

Phase 3 – Critical Discourse Analysis
Research studies proved that some policies are ineffective in addressing social inequality because they support the interests of dominant social groups instead of allowing minority groups to gain equal access to opportunities (Gonsalvez, 2013). As suggested by Aberdeen and Bye (2011) the aim of critical theory is to look beneath the surface of knowledge and reason, in order to see how they are distorted in an exploitative society. Such analysis leads the researcher to identify who gains and who loses in specific situations (Kincheloe and McClaren, 2000). In other words critical discourse analysis as Freire would suggest, requires reflection about what is said and written, reflexivity about how it is being interpreted and dialogue to increase understanding related to policies and strategies related to aging.


I have moved forward and have experienced academic growth through classes and further reading building on my work as a researcher prior to my PhD studies. My PhD journey in research has been very satisfying and I believe my progress to date demonstrates my readiness to move forward.


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