The Docent Method: A Grounded Theory Approach for Researching Place and Health

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Abstract

To understand health, research needs to move outside of controlled research settings into the environments where health activities occur—homes, streets, and neighborhoods. I offer the docent method as a qualitative place-based approach for exploring health in a participant-driven, structured, and flexible way. The docent method is a participant-led, audiotaped, and photographed walking interview through broad “sites of interest” (SOIs). It is rooted in grounded theory and influenced by community-based participatory research and walking interviews. The three stages of the docent method involve: (a) a warm-up interview focusing on positionality, participant background, and mapping/planning SOIs; (b) a participant-led, photographed walking interview to and around the SOI; and (c) a wind-down interview in the community. I describe the methodological influences, development, and procedures of the docent method drawing from my own experiences conducting it with formerly homeless women living in permenant supportive housing in the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco.

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