Background: This paper focuses on measuring the efficiency and effectiveness of two diagramming methods employed in key informant interviews with clinicians and health care administrators. The two methods are 'participatory diagramming', where the respondent creates a diagram that assists in their communication of answers, and 'graphic elicitation', where a researcher-prepared diagram is used to stimulate data collection.
Methods: These two diagramming methods were applied in key informant interviews and their value in efficiently and effectively gathering data was assessed based on quantitative measures and qualitative observations.
Results: Assessment of the two diagramming methods suggests that participatory diagramming is an efficient method for collecting data in graphic form, but may not generate the depth of verbal response that many qualitative researchers seek. In contrast, graphic elicitation was more intuitive, better understood and preferred by most respondents, and often provided more contemplative verbal responses, however this was achieved at the expense of more interview time.
Conclusion: Diagramming methods are important for eliciting interview data that are often difficult to obtain through traditional verbal exchanges. Subject to the methodological limitations of the study, our findings suggest that while participatory diagramming and graphic elicitation have specific strengths and weaknesses, their combined use can provide complementary information that would not likely occur with the application of only one diagramming method. The methodological insights gained by examining the efficiency and effectiveness of these diagramming methods in our study should be helpful to other researchers considering their incorporation into qualitative research designs.