Rebalancing power: Participatory research methods in interpreting studies


  • Svenja Wurm Heriot-Watt University
  • Jemina Napier Heriot-Watt University


interpreting, participatory research, collaborative research, power, sign language


A participatory research approach is a qualitative methodology that is inductive and collaborative (Cornwall & Jewkes, 1995) and relies on trust and relationships (Christopher et al. 2008). This approach is typically used in public health research studies, and has been used specifically to investigate migrant communities and interpreters in public health settings in Ireland (Macfarlane et al, 2009). Participatory research is an approach that enables positive user involvement and empowerment, and enables marginalised ‘hidden’ voices to be heard. Through purposeful sampling (Patton, 2002), ‘information rich’ stakeholder groups who have a depth of experience to share can contribute to the research process, thus ensuring that the research is conducted not just on, for and with people (Turner & Harrington, 2000), but also by people from stakeholder groups.

We reflect on two previous research studies to consider an innovative, interactive approach to interpreting research methodology. The studies adopted interactive principles of collaboration between researchers and key stakeholders and thus embedded a participatory approach within the research design. The key principles of participatory research will be outlined, with an overview of the methodologoy for each study and the benefits and challenges of using such an approach in interpreting studies. This paper will highlight how we can use sign language interpreting research to inform methodological approaches to the study of interpreter-mediated interaction generally.