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Educational Research

Chapter 16
Narrative Research
Gay, Mills, and Airasian

Topics Discussed in this Chapter

The definition and purpose of narrative

The narrative research process
The types of narrative research
Key characteristics of narrative research
Narrative research data collection

Definition and Purpose

Narrative research


The description of the lives of individuals, the collection

of individuals stories of their experiences, and a
discussion of the meaning of those experiences


An attempt to increase understanding of central issues

related to teaching and learning through the telling and
retelling of participants stories
Objectives 1.1 and 1.2

Definition and Purpose

Narrative research

Reasons for its popularity

The increased emphasis on teacher reflection, teacher

research, action research, and self-study
The increased emphasis placed on teacher knowledge,
professional development, and decision-making
The increased emphasis on empowering teacher voices
in the educational research process through collaborative
educational research efforts
Objective 1.3

The Narrative Research Process

Eight basic steps

Identify the purpose of the study and identify the

phenomenon being explored
Select an individual in order to learn about the
Pose initial narrative research questions
Describe the researchers role

Entry into the research site

Objective 2.1

The Narrative Research Process

Eight basic steps (continued)

Describe the data collection methods with

particular attention to active interviewing
Describe appropriate strategies for the analysis
and interpretation of data
Collaborate with the participant to construct the
narrative and to validate the accuracy of the story
Complete the writing of the narrative account
Objective 2.1

The Narrative Research Process

Similarity to the steps discussed for all other research

An interactive, personal, collaborative process
characterized by a caring, trusting relationship
between the researcher and participant

The researchers intent is to empower the participant to tell

his or her story
The participant must have equal voice in the relationship
The researcher must actively listen to the participants story
before contributing his or her own perspective
Objectives 2.2 and 2.3

Types of Narrative Research



Life Writing

Personal Accounts

Personal Narratives

Narrative Interviews

Personal Documents

Documents of Life

Life Stories and







Popular Memories
Objective 3.1

Types of Narrative Research

Five characteristics on which the type of

narrative research is categorized

Who authors the account

The scope of the narrative

The researcher, the participant, or both

An entire life or a single episode

Who provides the story

Teachers, students, parents, friends, etc.

Objective 3.2

Types of Narrative Research

Five characteristics (continued)

The theoretical and/or conceptual

framework that has influenced the study

For example, critical or feminist theory

Whether or not all of these elements are

included in the one narrative

The influence of the disciplines in which

each of these characteristics are
Objective 3.2

Characteristics of Narrative Research

Six key characteristics

Focus on the experiences of individuals

Concerned with the chronology of an
individuals experiences
Focus on the construction of life stories
based on data collected through active

Active interviewing emphasizes the

collaborative construction of the story
Objective 4.1

Characteristics of Narrative Research

Six key characteristics (continued)

Uses restorying as a technique for

constructing the narrative account
Incorporates context and place in the story
Reflects a collaborative approach that
involves the researcher and the participant
in the negotiation of the final text

Objective 4.1

Characteristics of Narrative Research

Sources of data

Participants recollections of events or

Secondary sources such as the participants
journal entries, artifacts, etc.
The nature of these sources implies the researcher
must interact at a very personal level with the
participant to collect data

The need for a relationship based on trust, caring,

respect, and equality to facilitate collecting data as well
as analyzing and interpreting it
Objective 4.2

Narrative Research Techniques

Empirical data is central to narrative


The interpretive nature of narrative

research presents concerns for credibility
of the study
Implies the use of multiple data sources,
triangulation, and collaborative negotiation
of the written account
Objective 5.1

Narrative Research Techniques

Six data collection techniques

Oral history
Story telling
Letter writing
Autobiographical and biographical writing
Objective 5.2

Narrative Research Techniques

Two perspectives on data collection, analysis, and


Narrative analysis

Analysis of narratives

The kind of narrative that is constructed by the researcher who

has collected descriptions of events through interviews and
observations and synthesized them into stories or narratives
The story is the outcome
The process whereby the researcher collects stories as data
and analyzes them into a set of themes that hold across all of
the stories
The themes are the outcomes

The text focuses on the first of these perspectives

Objective 5.3

Narrative Research Techniques


The process in which the researcher gathers stories;

analyzes them for key elements of the story such as the
time, place, or plot; and rewrites the story to place it in a
chronological sequence
Four stages

The researcher conducts the interview and transcribes the data

The researcher re-transcribes the data based on the key
elements that are identified in the story
The researcher organizes the story chronologically
The participant is asked to collaborate with the researcher to
write the final restoried narrative.

A major advantage is that the restoried account is likely to

represent the individuals lived experiences
Objective 5.4

Narrative Research Techniques

Oral history

A method for collecting data from

participants by asking them to share their
Two ways to develop oral histories

Interviews using structured or unstructured

Annals and chronicles

The participant constructs a timeline and divides it

into segments of significant events or memories
Objective 5.5

Narrative Research Techniques


Photos, personal objects, newspaper articles, artifacts, etc.

Such memorabilia can be used by the researcher as prompts
to elicit details about the participants life

Story telling

Telling stories should become a normative part of the data

collection process
The use of many stories can provide researchers with many
opportunities to add to their understanding of the
participants experiences
Objectives 5.6 and 5.7

Narrative Research Techniques

Letter writing

Engaging the researcher and participant in a


Facilitated by the use of e-mail

Provides valuable insights into the evolving,

tentative interpretations the participant is
Allows the researcher and participant to reflect on
the evolution of the themes
Objective 5.8

Narrative Research Techniques

Autobiographical and biographical writing

Engaging the participants in writing about their

perceptions of their experiences
Has the potential to broaden the researchers
understanding of past events and experiences that
have impacted the participants experiences

Other narrative data sources

Documents such as lesson plans, newsletters, etc.

Teaching portfolios
Personal philosophies
Objective 5.9

Narrative Research Techniques

Writing the narrative

The final step in the narrative research process

The data collected throughout the study finds its
way into the final written account
The collaboration between the researcher and
participant becomes critical at this point

Objective 5.10