Narrative Research

Navigating Narrative Research & the Depths of the Lived Experience

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 298-300).

Narrative research investigates the stories of what narrative researchers call “lived experiences.” These may be firsthand experiences of Navigating the lived experienceindividuals, groups, organizations, and even governments. Regardless of the entity, it is the story that is the case or object of attention and the focal point of the research. Unlike the structured or semi-structured in-depth interview (IDI), where the interviewer–interviewee relationship is directed by the researcher’s question agenda that serves to extract information from the interviewee, the narrative researcher allows the narrator (i.e., the interviewee in narrative research) to be the guide, welcoming the narrator’s stories wherever they may lead, by conducting a form of unstructured IDI whereby the researcher makes broad inquiries such as, “Tell me what happened when you joined the army,” “Tell me about your life as a health care worker,” “Tell me how you became a regular coffee drinker.”*

The belief in narrative research is that it is the narrated story—whether told orally, via some form of text or documents, and/or through the use of visual data (e.g., photographs, video, drawings)—that allows researchers to learn about individuals, society, and history, and that, indeed, “narrative inquiry [is] the study of experience as story” (Clandinin, Pushor, & Orr, 2007, p. 22).

For the most part, there are three (not mutually exclusive) ways to consider narrative inquiry, by the type of:

  • Narrative being studied: for example, life history, life story, biography, autobiography, or autoethnography.
  • Analytical approach used by the researcher: for example, thematic, structural, dialogical/performance, or visual (Riessman, 2008).
  • Scholarly discipline applied to the research: for example, psychology, sociology, or education.

The variations of narrative research across fields of study demonstrate that there is no one way to think about narrative inquiry and, indeed, the three delineated types—narrative, analytical, and discipline—are often co-mingled. For example, various factions of psychology have embraced the use Read Full Text

Narrative Research: Considerations in Gathering Quality Data

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 317-318).

The in-depth interview method most often used in narrative research takeStorytellings the form of the unstructured interview where the interviewer is not so much equipped with a series of questions or topics as a reminder of the research objective and areas where clarification or words of encouragement may be particularly appropriate. In lieu of a formal interview guide, the interviewer may want to enlist certain aids. For instance, Elliott (2005) suggests using a “life history grid” (e.g., a spreadsheet with each row representing a specific year and the columns used to record life events) to facilitate biographical interviews when narrators may need some structure in which to place their life events, beyond an open-ended question such as “Tell me about your life.” A Total Quality Framework approach to narrative research fully supports the life history grid and other tools that may enable the narrative researcher to obtain more complete and accurate data that ultimately lead to more credible and useful outcomes.

Another important consideration when conducting narrative research, particularly in the in-person mode, is the very close relationship that is likely to develop between the interviewer and the storyteller. For this reason, Read Full Text

Transcribing & Transcriptions in Narrative Research

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 320-321).

The use of transcripts in qualitative research has been discussed elsewhere in Research Design Review (see this February 2017 article), emphasizing the idea that “it is by way of these Transcribing narrative researchtranscribed accounts of the researcher-participant exchange that analysts hope to re-live each research event and draw meaningful interpretations from the data.” The creation and use of transcriptions, however, take on special meaning in narrative research where the primary goal is to maintain the narrative as a whole unit. To this end, the narrative researcher must decide how best to construct the transcripts so they retain the story as it was told, while also facilitating the researcher’s ability to derive meaning from the data as it relates to the research objectives.

This process might result in any number of transcription formats. For example, Riessman (2008) presents two transcriptions of a conversation she had with a Hindu woman in a study of infertility: One transcription was developed around the “co-construction process” (i.e., the interviewer’s role in the narrative as it was told), and another transcription excluded the interviewer and was Read Full Text