While many researchers describe the potential benefits to individuals if they opt to participate in qualitative research, it is not always feasible to empirically examine how engaging in a study influence the participants. Acknowledging this gap, we conducted a descriptive qualitative study to explore how 67 low-income students described their experiences as participants in a larger longitudinal qualitative research project that involved regularly submitting video diaries and participating in interviews over the course of three years. Overall, participants characterized their experiences as positive and highlighted unanticipated benefits of the project. Although many individuals were drawn to the project for the compensation, they found that regularly engaging in reflection with the support of a researcher they trusted to be beneficial. Participants often described their interviews as cathartic and as a place where they could make sense of their experiences in and outside of college. Opportunities for sustained reflection also helped participants increase their self-awareness. Additionally, participants described their videos as material evidence of their growth and development over time and indicated that this longitudinal project helped them develop their communication and time management skills.


longitudinal research, descriptive qualitative methods, reflection

Author Bio(s)

Rosemary J. Perez is an Associate Professor in the Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Please address correspondence to perezrj@umich.edu.

Arely Acuña is an Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Research Analyst at California State University, Los Angeles.

Marissiko M. Wheaton is an Assistant Dean and Director of Scripps Communities of Resources and Empowerment (SCORE) at Scripps College.


The authors gratefully acknowledge the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation for their support of this research.

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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.




https://orcid.org/ 0000-0002-4005-4172



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