Portraiture: A methodology through which success and positivity can be explored and reflected

Document Type

Journal Article


RCN Publishing Company Ltd.


School of Nursing and Midwifery / Nursing, Midwifery and Health Services Research




Cope, V., Jones, B., Hendricks, J. (2015). Portraiture: A methodology through which success and positivity can be explored and reflected in Nurse Researcher, 22(3), 6-12. Available here.


Aim To present an overview of portraiture. Background Nursing is increasingly embracing more arts-based approaches as research methodologies. Portraiture has an underlying philosophy and process that enables the illumination of real people in real settings through the 'painting' of their stories. It is a complex methodology in which the researcher attempts to illuminate meaning of personal stories and events presented as narrative. Data sources Interview data were collected from nine participants from three nursing settings. Nurses were invited to participate in an interview or conversation designed to elicit data to address the research questions; the aim was to gain insight into the nurses' common shared meanings and shared contemplations of their feelings about resilience. Criteria for inclusion in this study required that all nurse participants were English speaking, registered with the Nurses and Midwives Board of Western Australia and that each had over five years' experience in the Western Australian healthcare environment. This was to enable reflection on significant and ongoing changes within the workplace as a possible source of resilient behaviours. Review methods This is a methodological paper. Discussion Portraiture blends aesthetics and empiricism while drawing on features of narrative, case study, phenomenology and ethnography. The portraits stand as individual vignettes revealing recognisable themes and enabling patterns of experience to emerge from each topic being studied. Each portrait requires the researcher to constantly reflect on the participant's experiences by incorporating ethnographic observations, interview responses, impressionistic records, the interpretation of context, and the researcher's experiences and insights. It is a methodology that concentrates on success and positivity to immerse the reader in carefully painted and perceptive stories of success and positivity in times of adversity. Conclusion This paper describes some of the hallmarks of the portraiture method, one of which is to portray success and positivity, and points to the relationship this approach may have with contemporary social science and positive psychology research. Implications for research/practice The illumination of resilience as a strategy to be learned and fostered in nurses in times of adversity has implications for managers and nursing practice. Resilience education engenders a more resilient workforce and has implications for nurses choosing to or being able to stay in nursing during times of stress and adversity.



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