Using pictorial flashcards

Photographs or pictures of things can be used with direct questions or simply as a way of prompting discussion.

Research method Preparation time Time to gather data Time to analyse data Not suitable for ... Does data indicate wellbeing? Who, what, where people experience wellbeing? Is it an activity in itself?
Using pictorial flashcards Quick: print and cut up cards (finding your own could take time) 20 mins – 1 hour Quick as controlled outcome - Yes, if people talk about why they’ve selected pictures Yes, if people talk about why they’ve selected pictures Yes
 Suitable for:

  • people with limited verbal communication
  • people who can’t concentrate for long
  • young children
  • families – may lead to discussion.

What information is collected?

  • what people found significant about their time in the woods
  • they may prompt thoughts and memories
  • they can identify specific indicators
  • they may identify who, what or where leads to wellbeing.

How is information collected?

  • you record which cards people pick up and what they say on paper or using audio/video recording
  • you can ask specific questions about the cards they have selected (see interview or group discussion page for more).

Watch out for:

  • it can be difficult to gather information about why people have chosen particular pictures
  • it can be easy to ask leading questions or respond to people’s choices e.g. avoid saying anything like ‘ugh, you chose the horrible mud’.


Materials needed: set of cards, audio/video recorder or notepad/pencil and stills camera. Laminating the cards will help them last longer, especially if they’re to be used outdoors.

Method: lay out the cards on a flat surface and invite your participants to look at them and pick out those they like. Ask them to talk about the cards they have chosen, how each makes them feel, whether they would like to do that again. Ask them to pick which they don’t like and again ask them how looking at the picture makes them feel or to describe what they see.

Adaptations: ask participants to sort the pictures cards into piles of things that they like and don’t like and use this as a basis for discussion: what do the ones they like have in common if anything, or the ones they don’t like? You could make your own cards from pictures that you have taken during a woodland activity you have done previously with this participant and use them as memory prompts for informal interviews or group discussions.