Nardon, L., Hari, A. (2021) Sensemaking through metaphors: The role of imaginative metaphors in constructing new understandings, International Journal of Qualitative Methods, Vol 20 (1-10).


Drawing on in-depth interviews with exchange and international students during the COVID-19 pandemic, we elaborate on the role of Imaginative Metaphor Elicitation (IME) to generate knowledge about participants’ experiences while helping them make sense of and cope with a difficult situation. Imaginative metaphors allow participants to explore feelings, assumptions, and behaviors in non-threatening ways and facilitate introspection and self-awareness. We propose that imaginative metaphors help participants make their experience tangible and accessible, identify problematic assumptions, behaviors, as well as resources available to them. Some reported gaining a renewed sense of empowerment. Simultaneously, IME provides an opportunity to collect rich data while co-creating solutions for and with participants. We contribute to calls for embedding social impact in the research design by highlighting the value of IME in gaining deeper access to participants’ experiences while supporting them in taking an active role in their situations.