Use of Vignettes in Qualitative Research on Drug Use: Scoping Review and Case Example from Brazil

  • Jaqueline Queiroz de Macedo
  • Nazilla Khanlou
  • Margarita Antonia Villar Luis


This paper examines the use of vignettes, a research method used to explore sensitive issues in studies on drug use. First aim, to explore available literature on the use of vignettes in examining the phenomenon of drug use; Second, to illustrate the actual use of a vignette to capture the experiences of teachers in a school setting in Brazil. This we propose to do by applying Arksey and O’Malley’s scoping review technique. Twenty-six qualitative studies were found that met the reviews inclusion and exclusion criteria. Across studies, the vignette technique as a method of data collection was applied in different aspects of drug use (education and training, ethics in research, identification of risk, HIV, prevention, public conceptions, religion, rape, social policy, treatment). The main reasons to use this method were related, but not limited to the sensitive area of drug use, to stimulate discussion, to get participants involved, and to maintain confidentiality. In nursing practice, vignettes can make it easier to the patient to address drug use’s topics in group and individually. With the use of the vignette technique, qualitative researchers can increase the possibility of discussion about drug use with the participants, based on their choices and reflection on the scenario.


Addiction Qualitative methodology Vignette technique Scoping review Substance Abuse School and education 



We acknowledge Nasim Haque and Nida Mustafa for their contributions and English edits. We would also like to thank the Sao Paulo Research Foundation, Sao Paulo, Brazil, which supported this research.


This study was financially supported by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation, Sao Paulo, Brazil with PhD scholarship (ref. nr. 2012/21109-8) and Research Internships Abroad scholarship (ref. nr. 2013/22187-5).

Conflict of Interest

The authors of this manuscript, J. Macedo, N. Khanlou and M. Luis, declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human research (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000. Informed consent was obtained from all participants for being included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jaqueline Queiroz de Macedo
    • 1
  • Nazilla Khanlou
    • 2
  • Margarita Antonia Villar Luis
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Nursing at Ribeirao PretoUniversity of Sao PauloRibeirao PretoBrazil
  2. 2.Women’s Health Research Chair in Mental Health, Faculty of HealthYork UniversityTorontoCanada

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