Research indicates that visual displays in qualitative research are under-utilized and under-developed. This study aimed to reach a clearer understanding of this fact by learning from the perspective of seven editors in qualitative journals. Using a qualitative descriptive design this study explored what constitutes an appropriate and helpful use of visual displays, including examples from current practices, and recommendations in the use and creation of visual displays. This paper reveals new insights by experts and very knowledgeable personalities in the area of qualitative research. The experts’ vision provided information that favors inclusion of visuals in qualitative studies as well as reckons the need for enhancement of curricula in qualitative research education to involve teaching about and practicing alternative representations of data analysis including the use of visuals. This paper concludes with a new classification of visual displays based on their occurrence within a research report, and a list of the main criteria points used by editors for assessing the validity of visuals in qualitative research articles. Additionally, we include implications for qualitative researchers and educators interested to increase the use of visuals in qualitative articles.


Visual Display, Qualitative Research Editors, Visualization, Qualitative Data Analysis, Images, Interpreted Visuals

Author Bio(s)

Norma I. Scagnoli, Ph.D., is the Sr. Director of eLearning in the College of Business and Research Assistant Professor in the College of Education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She has a Ph.D. in Human Resource Development, a Master’s in Education with specialization in Instructional Technologies from the University of Illinois, and a Bachelor’s degree in English as a Foreign Language. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Norma I. Scagnoli, College of Business, 1206 S. Sixth St, 430 Wohlers Hall, Champaign, IL 61820. Phone: 217-333-2652, e-mail: scagnoli@illinois.edu.

Susana Verdinelli, Psy.D., is a core faculty in the doctoral program in counseling psychology at the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Walden University. Susana has a Doctor in Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University, a Master’s degree in School Psychology, a Master’s degree in Educational Psychology from the State University of New York, Buffalo, and a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: to Susana Verdinelli, School of Psychology, College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, Walden University, 100 Washington Avenue South, Suite 900, Minneapolis, MN 55401. Phone: 1-469-277-2320, e-mail: Susana.Verdinelli@waldenu.edu.


The authors want to thank all the participants of this study for contributing their time, perspectives, and points of view on the use of visual displays. Our utmost appreciation to: Ron Chenail, Rose Edwards, Jennifer C. Greene, Carol Grbich, Seville Kushner, James Scheurich and Robert Stake. Without their interest and wisdom this study could not have been possible.

Publication Date


Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.




Submission Location


To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.