The Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown represents a significant challenge for qualitative researchers due to social distancing measures restricting face-to-face data collection. At the time of ethical approval (early April 2020), all face-to-face research projects facilitated by the Scottish Prison Service and most prison jurisdictions were paused. In response to these methodological challenges, a participatory action correspondence methodology was designed in order for people in custody to influence the direction of this project by suggesting research questions and themes. This article analyses the potential of this approach, what this illuminated and critically engages with the challenges of implementing this qualitative methodology. Eight participants were selected due to previous participation in a Participatory Action Research project at one Scottish prison. After consent was given via post, eight letters were sent to the participants. This paper analyses the questions relating to, and aspects of Covid-19 that were important to the participants, in the hope that these insights will influence other qualitative research on the impacts of Covid-19 within prison settings. Methodologically and theoretically, this paper illustrates the potential and challenges relating to using a qualitative correspondence method to facilitate unique insights into life in custody during what emerges as a particularly challenging time in prison settings. More widely the paper reiterates and restates the importance of qualitative research methods as methods that provide unique and rich insights into the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Maycock, M. 2021, '“I do not appear to have had previous letters.”:The potential and pitfalls of using a qualitative correspondence method to facilitate insights into life in prison during the Covid-19 pandemic', International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 20. https://doi.org/10.1177/16094069211047129

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Last updated: 30 August 2022
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