What is Narrative Research?
Narrative research is a term that subsumes a group of approaches that in turn rely on the written or spoken words or visual representation of individuals. These approaches typically focus on the lives of individuals as told through their own stories. The emphasis in such approaches is on the story, typically both what and how is narrated.
Narrative research can be considered both a research method in itself but also the phenomenon under study.
Narrative methods can be considered “real world measures” that are appropriate when “real life problems” are investigated. In a basic linear approach, they encompass the study of the experiences of a single individual embracing stories of the life and exploring the learned significance of those individual experiences. However, in most cases one will be creating an aggregate of narratives each bearing on the others.
Narrative research is set out by the validation of the audience. It is a useful part of the social science investigation, but may not always stand alone for evidence and support for the conclusions of a report. Whether or not it is a part of a great presentation or whether it is a stand alone piece of research, it has to be accepted on its own merits as individual experience and the interpretation of thereof. The question arises as to the accuracy of the story looked at objectively even though it must be viewed in its socio-cultural context. The narrative gives one’s individual view to be accessed on its merits. Such validation is possible by corroboration from another narrative.
While some types of qualitative analysis have a standard set of procedures, narrative research is questionable in this regard. One of the weaknesses of studying narratives is that the text is by its own nature linguistically subjective. i.e. difficult to quantitatively access in an objective manner since it is subjective i.e. personally meaningful.
A number of data collection methods can be used, as the researcher and the research subjects work together in this collaborative dialogic relationship. Data can be in the form of field notes; journal records; interview transcripts; one’s own and other’s observations; storytelling; letter writing; autobiographical writing; documents such as school and class plans, newsletters, and other texts, such as rules and principles; and pictures. To this list, one should add audio and video recordings, as these are also useful data in narrative research.
Dedicated research software like ATLAS.ti help the researcher to catalog, penetrate and analyze the data generated in a given research project. All forms of narrative research benefit extensively from the special capabilities of a dedicated data analysis tool like ATLAS.ti.
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