How to collect data

Here you will explore:

  • what is meant by ‘data’
  • where and how data collection fits into the process of working with flood-affected communities
  • different methods you can use to work with flood-affected people and the types of data that these will produce, e.g. audio recordings of people speaking, drawings, photographs etc.

What is ‘data’? Data is any material that gets collected or contributed by flood-affected people, who are very often concerned to help others who may go through similar experiences, or to help policy and practice better understand what being flooded means. If during your work you want to take photographs, audio and video recordings or collect other forms of written or creative material you will need to think about the ethics of how you collect, store and use this material. You should also consider how different ways of working will generate different types of data.

Flowchart of data collection steps. Long description via link.

Where data collection fits into the process of working with flood-affected communities


Before you begin! Before starting to work with flood-affected communities, you need to have carefully set up the project and considered the ethical issues. See the section on this website about working ethically, including the downloadable Guide to the ethics of working with flood-affected people.

Data collection methods Different research methods are suitable for different groups. The Lancaster research team has used a range of methods when working with children and adults and this has generated a variety of data.

Working with children

The Lancaster team has drawn on a range of qualitative approaches designed to support children in voicing their experiences and thoughts in a safe environment. These include:


Workshops with children have started and ended with drama and team-building activities. These help to build trust among the group, to ‘warm up’ skills such as observation and to promote a fun, creative but also reflective atmosphere with scope for analysis and evaluation.

children and adults freeze in a shape in a warm up activity

Warm up activity

Data produced:

  • Photographs of children taking part in drama and evaluation activities
  • Audio-recordings of children talking during evaluation activities (and written transcripts of these)


Walk & talk and photo talk


Walk & talk activity

Following the warm-up activities, the Children, Young People and Flooding project workshops began with walk & talk: walking with the children in the local flood-affected area and recording the conversations along the way. The children took photos of things or places that reminded them of the flood, such as skips, flood-damaged buildings and riversides. There were also scenes of recovery like houses being rebuilt and renovated and on-going essential drainage works. Back in the workshop, children used the photos they took on the walk to share stories in the group during a photo talk session, which was also recorded.


Photo talk activity

Data produced:

  • Audio recordings of children talking during the walks (and written transcripts of these)
  • Photographs children took during the walks
  • Audio recordings of children talking about their photographs (and written transcripts of these)

Sandplay and 3D modelling

Knowing how hard it is for people who have been flooded to convey what they have gone through, the Children, Young People and Flooding project used 3D modelling to invite the children to share their experiences. A great way to start is with sand, a simple and playful means to connect with expressing ideas and memories using tactile materials. This then led to thinking about how to express parts of the story in more complex 3D. The children used a range of materials (such as clay, sticks and moss to wool, textiles and buttons) to show what happened and how the flood still affected them. Once completed, the children shared what they had made with others in their group, naming the different parts of the models and talking about what each feature meant.

hands and arms wroking at the table with blue wool beside the developing clay model of a skip decorated with small blue tiles and scraps of silver paper

Group modelling activity

Data produced:

  • Photographs of children taking part in sandplay and modelling activities
  • Photographs of individual and group models created by the children
  • Audio recordings of children talking about their models and the sandplay/model-making process (and written transcripts of these)



The Hull Children’s Flood Project adopted a storyboard methodology, where children drew pictures or used creative writing to tell their stories. Following group warm-up activities, the research team showed a presentation called ‘And Then What…?’, built around a series of images from the Hull 2007 floods, which was designed to get the children thinking about their own memories and experiences. The children were then given drawing materials and blank pieces of A3 paper and encouraged to choose their own ways of representing their ‘flood journey’, starting on the day of the flood and going up to the day of the research workshop. The research team followed up with individual interviews about the storyboards.

Data produced:

  • Children’s storyboard drawings
  • Audio recordings of individual discussion about the storyboards (and written transcripts of these)



Storyboard drawing of the floods and evacuation from home. Long description via embedded link.

Storyboard about displacement created during the Hull Children’s Flood Project.


Individual Interviews

The team involved in the Hull Children’s Flood Project used the children’s storyboards to generate questions to use in short semi-structured interviews. Each child was encouraged to talk in more depth about their storyboards with a researcher in a one-on-one discussion. Some young people from the Children, Young People and Flooding project also requested individual interview as a follow-up to the group workshops.

Data produced:

  • Audio recordings of individual interviews with children (and written transcripts of these)

    pdf showing small section of transcript

    Section from transcript

Group Discussion

During the Children, Young People and Flooding project, the research team took some of the data (interview transcripts and photographs) back to a workshop with the children and used this as a stimulus for discussion. The children were invited to identify key themes and concerns and then work together to identify decision makers involved in flood risk management and the key messages they wanted to convey to them. Ideas from these group discussions were pooled together (as below) and later written up as ‘flood manifestos’.

Handwritten manifesto in list form. Long description via embedded link.

The children’s notes from their group discussion

Data produced:

  • Audio recordings of children’s group discussion (and written transcripts of these)
  • Written notes produced by children during group discussion

Stakeholder engagement events

At the end of the Children, Young People and Flooding project, the children worked together to create performance-based pieces that were presented to audiences of stakeholders affected by flooding and involved in flood risk management. These performances incorporated quotations and photographs from the project, brought to life through drama sketches, sound sequences and children reading aloud. At the end the audience was handed the children’s ‘flood manifestos’ and asked to write individual pledges of action in response.

audience viewing participants on stage

Stakeholder event

Data produced:

  • Stakeholder event performance scripts
  • Video of performances by children
  • Written pledges generated at stakeholder engagement events



Working with adults

The Lancaster research team has used a range of in-depth qualitative methods to better understand adults’ experiences of flooding and the drawn out process of recovery. These include:

Written diaries

During the Hull Floods Project, adults were invited to keep weekly diaries over an 18 month period. This approach gave participants the freedom to choose what to write about in their own words while providing a real-time record of events and experiences, thereby tracking their own recovery process, week by week. The diary booklet began with a few ‘warm up’ exercises where participants were asked weekly to rate their health, quality of life and relationships with family and friends, using a simple scale ranging from ‘very poor’ to ‘very good’. There was also a section where they could enter details of what they had done on particular days that week. This got the participants used to writing in readiness for the main free-text section where they wrote whatever they liked about their lives that week.

Data produced:

  • Written diaries of adults recovering from flooding


Group discussions

The adults involved in the Hull Floods Project requested to meet quarterly as a group. These group discussions followed a semi-structured format: the researchers introduced key issues identified from initial readings of the participants’ diary material but, for the most part, the team simply let the conversation flow and participants bring up issues most relevant for them. The initial aim of the discussions was to encourage group reflection on the challenges participants were facing and suggestions for the future, but it was recognised that these discussions came to play a ‘therapeutic’ role, while also supporting the emergence of participants’ expertise as they grew more confident about sharing their experiences and opinions. This emerging expertise meant that the groups evolved to take on a more participatory, consultative role in the project.

Data produced:

  • Audio recordings of adults’ group discussions (and written transcripts of these)

Individual interviews

The Lancaster research team has conducted one-on-one interviews with adults flooded at home and at work, as well as with those involved in flood response and recovery.

Data produced:

  • Audio recordings of individual interviews with adults (and written transcripts of these)

Stakeholder engagement events

The Hull Floods Project culminated in a day-long stakeholder engagement event, bringing together the project participants with key agencies such as water companies, government departments, local authorities and the insurance industry. The workshop included discussions about the recovery process following a flood and how to build resilience to future flooding.

Data produced:

  • Written notes from workshop discussions
  • Audio recordings of group discussion (and written transcripts of these)
  • Photographs and video of the event

After collecting data Data can be used simply as evidence of your community activity/engagement, but it can also be analysed to help you develop further flood resilience work or inform policymaking.

Remember to store your data carefully. See the section on this website about working ethically, including the downloadable guide, Working with flood-affected people.

Please reference as: Flooding – a social impact archive, Lancaster University





Here are a set of final reports from Lancaster University research projects about the social effects of flooding:

Mort, M., Walker, M., Lloyd Williams, A., Bingley, A. & Howells, V. (2016). Children, Young People and Flooding: Recovery and Resilience Project Report (PDF). Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University.

This report outlines the key research findings into the experiences of children and young people during the UK winter 2013/14 floods. The report makes a number of key recommendations for policy and practice in England and Wales.



Kemp, R.J. (2016). Living without electricity: one city’s experience of coping with loss of power (PDF). London: Royal Academy of Engineering.

Over the first weekend in December 2015, Storm Desmond brought unprecedented flooding to North Lancashire and Cumbria, including to parts of central Lancaster. At 10.45 pm on Saturday, 5 December, electricity supplies to 61,000 properties in the city were cut. This report details one city’s experience of coping with loss of power.



Walker, M., Whittle R., Medd, W., Burningham, K., Moran-Ellis, J. & Tapsell, S. (2011).Hull Children’s Flood Project Final Report (PDF).

This is the Final Project Report and Executive Summary for ‘Children, Flood and Urban Resilience: Understanding children and young people’s experience and agency in the flood recovery process’. Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University.



Whittle, R., Medd, W., Deeming, H., Kashefi, E., Mort, M., Twigger Ross, C., Walker, G. & Watson, N. (2010). After the Rain – learning the lessons from flood recovery in Hull (PDF).

The Final Project Report for Flood, Vulnerability and Urban Resilience: a real-time study of local recovery following the floods of June 2007 in Hull. Lancaster, UK: Lancaster University.

Books and articles

Here are a number of articles and books arising from Lancaster University’s research into the social effects of flooding and children’s role in Disaster Risk Reduction:

This book, produced by the CUIDAR project team, argues for a radical transformation in children’s roles and voices in disasters. It shows practitioners, policy-makers and researchers how more child-centred disaster management, that recognises children’s capacity to enhance disaster resilience, actually benefits at-risk communities as a whole.

Our case study features in this publication to guide experts and policymakers, technical working groups, international and non-governmental organisations in their work to reduce disaster risk and build resilience.

This article is aimed at emergency managers, public health practitioners, policymakers, journalists and others who can implement and amplify the findings from our disaster research with children.

This paper draws on case studies of several of the children and young people we worked with during the Children, Young People and Flooding project to discuss how flooding causes multiple losses and affects children’s relationship with place and space.

This article draws on our Children, Young People and Flooding project report to make a case for including children and young people in policymaking in UK flood risk management.

  • Easthope, L. (2018). The Recovery Myth: The Plans and Situated Realities of Post Disaster Response. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

This book provides an innovative re-examination of the ‘recovery’ phase of a disaster. Drawing on two decades’ of work, the book develops an ethnography of the residents and responders in one flooded village and applies this to other cases of UK flooding, as well as to post-disaster recovery in New Zealand. The book shows how localised emergency responders find ways to collaborate with residents, and how an informal network uses nationally generated instruments differently to co-produce regeneration within a community. The book considers the plethora of government instruments which have been produced to affect recovery, including checklists, templates and guidance documents, and discusses approaches to community resilience and recovery risk management.

This paper brings together the interdisciplines of performance studies, disaster studies and mobilities studies to argue that flood-affected children can mobilise and be mobilised by performance-based methods. We suggest that these methods help children’s voices to ‘travel’ and support them to become change agents in disaster planning.

This paper reports on the findings of a longitudinal study using an action research model to understand the everyday experiences of individuals following the floods of June 2007 in Hull. The research shows that what happens after a flood in terms of getting your life and your home back on track is often harder for people to deal with than the event itself. The paper argues that recovery involves a more varied process than is assumed and concludes with suggestions for addressing the ‘recovery gap’.

Recovery practices following the loss of home, sense of security, space and possessions, have recently become a focus of government attention. How people recover from disasters is seen to have a direct bearing on individual, community and economic well-being. A raft of instruments: templates, checklists and guidance documents have been produced to instigate recovery, which work within a wider context of disaster planning to create order where much is uncertain, reactive and dependent on emerging relationships. While such instruments are not necessarily unwelcome, they carry many assumptions. We show how they are built from official narratives that are often remote from situated practices or recovery-in-place. From a five-year study of a flooded community in South Yorkshire and the development of government recovery guidance, it became clear that such protocols became transformed locally when enacted by newly formed collaborations of residents and local responders. In this way, operating alongside, and sometimes underneath the official response, residents and local responders demonstrated a remaking of the politics of recovery.

  • Whittle, R., Medd, W., Mort, M., Deeming, H., Walker, M., Twigger-Ross, C., Walker, G. & Watson, N. (2014). Placing the flood recovery process. In: I. Convery, G. Corsane & P. Davis (Eds). Displaced Heritage – Responses to Disaster, Trauma and Loss. Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, pp. 199-206, ISBN: 9781843839637.

This chapter ‘Placing the flood recovery process’ is part of the section looking at ‘Displaced Heritage: Lived Realities, Local Experiences’. The chapter reports on the findings of the longitudinal study of people’s recovery from the floods of June 2007 in Kingston-upon-Hull, UK in which over 8,600 households were affected. The chapter begins by exploring the ways in which the policy and research literature describes the recovery process, and then moves on to the experiences of the Hull residents.  It argues that if we want to understand the recovery process then it is essential to think about what it is that is being recovered. 

The growing body of literature that seeks to understand the social impact of flooding has failed to recognise the value of children’s knowledge in understanding the impact of flood. This paper argues, through a case study with flood-affected children in Hull, the significance of children’s accounts. More specifically the paper identifies first, how children have specific flood experiences that need to be understood in their own right, and second, how through children’s accounts we can understand more about the nature of flood and the flood recovery process.

This paper uses concepts of emotion work and emotional labour to explore people’s experiences of the long-term disaster recovery process. It draws on data taken from two qualitative research projects which looked at adults’ and children’s recovery from the floods of June 2007 in Hull, UK. The paper argues that the emotional work of recovery cannot be separated from the physical and practical work of recovering the built environment. It shows that a focus on emotion work can lead to a more nuanced understanding of what recovery actually means and who is involved, leading to the identification of hidden vulnerabilities and a better understanding of the longer timescales involved in the process.

Dissemination is a vital but neglected component of research with children. Drawing on our experiences working with 46 flood-affected children and young people we evaluate the evolution of a creative methodology for disseminating research results to non-academic audiences in tandem with the participants. Reflecting on the strengths and weaknesses of this process, we highlight three key conclusions: the importance of reciprocity in research, the necessity of taking a creative, active approach to dissemination, and the role of dissemination in providing a means by which other issues can be explored.

This paper approaches flooding as a socio-natural-technical assemblage, a phenomenon that comes into being in relation to the spaces that `bad water’ occupies. We use the case of the major flood in the city of Hull in June 2007, and the accounts of those who experienced it, to follow the flood water into homes and household spaces. Through the analysis of data from two parallel projects examining the experiences of adults and children, we show that the boundaries of the flood remained open, contested and socially complex. Finally, implications are explored in relation to the processes embroiled in producing ‘flood status’ and the consequences for the actors involved.

This article is based on a case study of the summer floods of June 2007 in Hull, Northeast England. We use a real-time, diary-based methodology to document and understand the everyday experiences of individuals following the floods.  We ask what can we can learn about caring when the home is disrupted. Focusing on the diaries, we explore what flood reveals about the emotional and physical landscapes of caring in the context of recovery and illustrate the intimate connections that exist between ideas of dwelling and caring. In drawing on the accounts of carers (who are often also those displaced by flood), we explore the tensions between, and intersections of spaces of care work as these are enacted between the routines of everyday ‘normal’ life and the specific disruptions generated by flood.

  • Watkins, S. & Whyte, I. (2009). Floods in North West England: a history c. 1600-2008. Lancaster University: Centre for North-West Regional Studies. 




Ben aged 12

This is Ben’s story about what happened to him with some key learning points at the end…


On the evening of 9th February 2014, after days of persistent rain, seven severe flood warnings (the highest category) were put in place for the River Thames in north Surrey. Residents were evacuated and roads and schools were closed. The Staines area experienced clusters of events involving tidal, river, rainfall and groundwater flooding. These four stories, taken from our ‘Children, Young People and Flooding: Recovery and Resilience’ project, show how flooding can reveal, and even exacerbate, existing social vulnerabilities.

Ben, aged 12, lives in a house with his parents, older brother and dog. Although it had been raining steadily for days, Ben said, ‘Because we were so far away from the river we didn’t think we would get flooded’. But then the flood waters starting rising quickly: ‘so it rose about eight inches in two hours or something… It went up really fast’. At this point Ben’s granddad telephoned and Ben said:

(Transcript for sound bite)

Ben helped his mum to move furniture upstairs, putting the sofa on stilts and helping a disabled neighbour: ‘A few doors on from us there’s a man.., he’s got a disabled mum who lives downstairs and me and my mum had to go in and help him move her upstairs’. His father came home from work and they carried on moving furniture and attempting to block up the airbricks with plastic bags and silicone.

Ben and Callum created a model of their flooded street

At about 2 a.m. the floodwaters stopped rising and the family went to bed. The next morning the water had receded and they believed they had escaped the flooding.

But then about a week after the flood, ‘we realised that all our plaster was coming off and all our floorboards had moved. They were all twisting’. Ben’s dad looked under the floorboards and saw the water was just below them. The insurance company came out and started drilling into the walls to assess the damage. The house was damp and noisy and Ben’s mum said the family couldn’t live with the amount of damp and upheaval and would have to move. Ben remembered that the insurance company:

asked us if we could go to any relatives or friends or anything. We said, ‘No they’re all flooded’ because one lives in [nearby town] and they’re flooded, one lives [outside of England], and all our friends were flooded.

The family went into rented accommodation further away from school than Ben had ever been before and so instead of walking to school he started cycling. But Ben didn’t talk to his school friends about how the flood had resulted in his having to move away from his home and he said, ‘I couldn’t go to the park. My friends kept asking me but my mum wouldn’t let me cycle in the dark’. He just stopped meeting his mates and this impacted on his friendship network. Added to this, Ben didn’t think to tell the staff at school that he had been evacuated and never talked to anyone other than Callum about how the flooding had impacted on his life.

(Transcript for sound bite)

Ben’s family were away from their home for over a year. The time in the rented accommodation turned out to be a lot longer than they had anticipated. The drying certificate was given but then there were six months of no activity, waiting for the builders to carry out the repairs: ‘because six months the house had the dry certificate but no one was doing anything’. The lease on the rented accommodation ran out and the family had to find an alternative and move again: ‘ Yeah, because that one had run out, the owners were coming back’. Talking about his flood experiences Ben told us that the worst thing ‘was moving… because you had to pack it all up, then it would take two hours to unpack it and then you have to do it again and then again’.

Blue river created with felt, white river bank and brown clay model of a boat

The next day when the water had gone down a bit, there was this boat and it was stranded.


Ben’s experience demonstrates that you are unable to plan anything, your future gets put on hold, you are at the mercy of other people’s timetables and it destroys your sense of agency. And yet life has to go on – people have to go to work; children have to go to school.



Key Points

  • Groundwater flooding takes the family by surprise
  • Children’s active role in flood response
  • Multiple moves into rented accommodation causes stress
  • Moving away from home results in loss of friendship networks
  • Unnecessary delays in building repairs lengthens the displacement from home

Please reference as: Flooding – a social impact archive, Lancaster University

Flood Narratives

The term ‘flood narratives’ here means illustrations of individual young people’s flood experiences. They show how qualitative research data can be used to develop exemplars which make visible the social consequences of flooding.

Young people and researcher chatting beside the River Thames

Chatting beside the River Thames

From conversations with flood-affected young people, held on walks around the local landscape and workshop sessions using performance and arts based activities, substantial material was gathered about how their lives were impacted by the disaster.

A young person crouches on a wooden bridge to take a photograph

Gathering data for the Photo Talk session

This made it possible to piece together a number of personal histories of the flood, four of which are given here: Ben aged 12, Andrew 15, Sally 11 and Callum 12 (their ages at the time of working with them). What these personal histories show are the multiple and unexpected ways that a flood can alter and disrupt a young person’s biography.

In our six-minute film ‘the flood project’ Daniel says: ‘You feel like you’ve missed a year of your life’. But the four narratives here show that the effects are even more far reaching than this as they alter the possibilities and opportunities that young people might have had. Sometimes floods and emergencies open up new opportunities and experiences and this is acknowledged. But far more work needs to be done to understand the effect of living through, and with, extreme weather or other disasters for young people.

These personal histories have been analysed in depth in our published article: Displaced: critical insights from flood-affected children.

Please reference as: Flooding – a social impact archive, Lancaster University

How To Guide

Section of storyboard showing house with flood water reaching almost up to the downstairs window - the text reads, "My House: In June 2007 the floods came into Hull"This ‘How To’ Guide provides an introduction to the main issues to be aware of when working with flood-affected people, families and communities.

These pages explain: how to ensure you work ethically; what is meant by ‘data’ and the different methods you can use to collect it; and how and why you might want to analyse that data.

The key points of ethical practice are summarised in a downloadable guide, Working with flood-affected people.




Staines-upon-Thames 2014


Please reference as: Flooding – a social impact archive, Lancaster University