Social Research Glossary


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Citation reference: Harvey, L., 2012-17, Social Research Glossary, Quality Research International,

This is a dynamic glossary and the author would welcome any e-mail suggestions for additions or amendments. Page updated 2 January, 2017 , © Lee Harvey 2012–2017.


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Video recording

core definition

Video recording is a generic term for the analog or digital capture of images for research purposes, whether they be new first-hand material or recordings of existing outputs from television, cinema or other media.

explanatory context

Video recording of television or other media outputs makes analysis easier as the recording can be controlled by the researcher for purposes of transcription, iconological or iconographical analysis, semiotic or content analysis.


In some cases, researchers make original recordings of interviews, activities or events that are subsequently analysed. Where this occurs it is usually associated with qualitative research, such as life history.

analytical review

Jewitt (2012) produced an excellent summary working paper on the use of video-recording in research:

Researchers have used video (and before that film) for many years particularly in workplace studies (see Heath, Luff, Hindmarsh, 2010) [NB citation incorrect see references] , the learning sciences (see Goldman et al, 2009 [citation doesn't match any reference]), and the home (see Norris, 2004 [reference missing]; Goodwin, 2000). Studies have used video to ask questions in a variety of sites including how social class and race are articulated in the school classroom (e.g. Mehan, 1979); how museum visitors interact with one another and exhibits (e.g. Heath and vom Lehn, 2004); how patients and General Practitioners manage consultations, including how digital resources, such as the Electronic Patient Record (EPR) shape these interactions (e.g. Swinglehurst, forthcoming). Video has been used to examine cultural aspects of everyday life, for example, Pink (2003) has used video tours to explore the aesthetics of home décor in relation to social identities, others have explored how families use video recording in the home to construct their domestic narratives (Willet and Buckingham, 2009 [NB citation incorrect see references under Buckingham]). Video has been employed to explore children and young people’s identities, media practices and digital cultural production (e.g. Marsh, 2004; Domingo, 2011 [Reference missing]; Gilje, 2009). Others have approached videos made by others, for instance exploring how people produce, share and comment on videos such as Adami’s study of YouTube (2009).

Despite this broad take up and the recognition of the potential of video as an investigative tool within social science, it has, surprisingly, only recently become the subject of substantial sociological reflection and has been rather theoretically and methodologically neglected (Kissmann, 2009). ... Video can be used in a number of ways for research including participatory video, videography, the use of existing video data, video interviews and elicitation and video based fieldwork....

Video (and audio) recording are important media for most approaches to discourse analysis. Potter (2010, pp. 17–18) emphasises the need for good field recordings for discursive analysis:

Some considerations are paramount here.
First, the quality of recording has a powerful effect on the time taken in transcription and analysis. Time and resources devoted to getting high quality recordings will pay off handsomely when it comes to transcribing the recordings and working with them in data sessions. Hours are wasted re-listening to a key piece of talk against a loud recording hum, and attempting to work out whether a child has taken a mouthful of food or just put the fork near her mouth. Solid state recorders with good microphones and digital video cameras with large hard disc drives are both effective. Make sure voice activated is disabled.
Second, if embodied activities are available to participants then they are certain to be a live part of the interaction. That means that it will be important to have video records of face to face interaction (or non-face to face interaction that is technologically mediated with a visual modality). High quality digital video is inexpensive, simple and easy to manipulate so this is not an insurmountable problem.
Third, once the whole process has been put into place actually making recordings is almost always simpler and easier than analysing and transcribing them. This means that researchers should err on the side of collecting more recordings than planned. Digital recordings can be easily stored and they provide an important resource for future research.
Fourth, a characteristic feature of contemporary discursive psychology is that participants do the data collection themselves. This is designed to minimize the reactivity generated by extended researcher involvement and allows the participants to manage ethical issues in a way that suits them best. This means that simplicity is a key consideration—it minimizes what the participants have to learn and the effort they have to put into the collection. Current recorders are ideal as they often have large storage, long battery life, and a simple press and record function.

associated issues


related areas

See also

discourse analysis

interview: in-depth interview


Researching the Real World Section 3

Researching the Real World Section 6.5


Adami, E., 2009, ‘We/YouTube’: Exploring sign-making in video-interaction’. Visual Communication, 8(4), pp. 379-400.

Buckingham, D. and Willet, R., 2009, Video Cultures: Media Technology and Everyday Creativity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gilje, O., 2009, Mode, Mediation and Moving Images: An Inquiry of Digital Editing Practices in Media Education, Published PhD. Faculty of Education, University of Oslo, Norway.

Goldman, R., 2009, 'Video representations and the perspectivity framework', in Goldman, R., Pea,R, Barron and Derry, S. Video Research in the learning sciences, Routledge: New York: 3-38.
Goldman, R., Erickson, F., Lemke, J. and Derry, S., 2007, 'Selection in video', in Derry, S. (Ed.), 2007, Guidelines For Video Research In Education: Recommendations From An Expert Panel, Data Research and Development Center (NORC at the University of Chicago), pp. 19–27.
Goldman, S. and McDermott, R., 2009, 'Staying the course with video analysis', in Goldman, R., Pea, R., Barron and Derry, S., Video Research in the learning sciences Routledge: New York: 101–14.

Goodwin, C., 2000, 'Action and embodiment within situated human interaction', Journal of Pragmatics, 32, pp. 1489–522.

Heath, C. and vom Lehn, D., 2004,‘Configuring Reception: Looking at exhibits in museums and galleries’. Theory, Culture and Society, 21(6), pp. 43–65.

Heath, C., Hindmarsh, J., and Luff, P., 2010,Video in qualitative research: Analysing social interaction in everyday life. London: Sage.

Jewitt, C., 2012, An Introduction to Using Video for Research, National Centre for Research Methods Working Paper 03/12, March 2012, London, National Centre for Research Methods, available at, accessed 10 May 2013, still available 29 December 2016.

Kissmann, U. (Ed.), 2009,Video Interaction Analysis, Frankfurt: Peter Lang.

Marsh, J.A., 2004, Popular Culture, Media and Digital Literacies in Early Childhood. London: Routledge.

Mehan, H., 1979, Learning lessons: Social organization in the classroom. Cambridge MA: Harvard University. Press.

Pink, S., 2003,‘Representing the sensory home: ethnographic experience and ethnographic hypermedia’. Social Analysis 4(3), pp. 46–63.

Potter, J., 2010, 'Discourse analysis and discursive psychology' draft dated 11 February 2010, to be published as Potter, J. (2012), 'Discourse analysis and discursive psychology', in Cooper, H. (Editor-in-Chief). APA handbook of research methods in psychology: Vol. 2. Quantitative, qualitative, neuropsychological, and biological (pp. 111–130). Washington: American Psychological Association Press, available at, accessed 4 October 2013, still available 29 December 2016.

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