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Theoretical models of stress have become increasingly sophisticated, recognizing the importance of context and history, yet the principal data-gathering method used by researchers remains the self-report questionnaire, a method which is conspicuously ill suited to obtaining data which would allow for exploration of these factors. In this article, we explore the use of visual methods as an alternative to traditional methods, presenting the findings of a study designed to test the utility of a visual timeline technique. A key contribution of this article is the application of an alternative technique for researching stress appraisal and coping. The technique conferred a number of benefits that may not have been provided by more conventional approaches, making it a suitable basis for the exploration of stress appraisal and coping. A further contribution is the identification of a straightforward process for analysing the visual data produced.

Practitioner Points

  • Understanding appraisal and coping in terms of history and context is crucial to the design of effective stress interventions.
  • The visual timeline method offers practitioners an alternative way of gathering data to inform the design of appropriate interventions.
  • It may be especially useful in working with individuals and organizations coping with change: the method was positively evaluated by participants, who found the experience enjoyable and beneficial, so it may elicit more engagement than traditional methods for gauging employee responses to change, such as attitude surveys.