Narrative Research

Narrative Research

William Pastory and Colin Madland

The primary source of this information is Johnson, R. B., & Christensen, L. (2017). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative and mixed approaches (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. Chapter 15

Is the use of lived and told stories to understand experiences. It is a collaborative process between the researcher and participants. It occurs over a long period of time in one or many places as a result of social interactions in social environments (Johnson & Christensen, 2017, p. 425)

4 key terms

Living stories

Put simply, people live their own stories. Each person's present story is influenced by their past experiences, contexts, cultures, families, beliefs, and myriad other influences, so each person's story is utterly unique. Each person in the group juggling activity had a different experience of the activity because of their past experiences.

Telling stories

As people live, they also tell their stories to others.

Retelling stories

As researchers come alongside people and inquire into their stories, the peoples' stories are retold, but this time with the addition of the researcher's stories.

Reliving stories

As researchers and participants are both changed in the retelling of their stories, both may begin to relive their stories.

3 Dimensional Inquiry

  • temporal
  • social
  • physical

Our human world is constructed and continually reconstructed through the processes of story living and storytelling. (Johnson & Christensen, 2017)

Compare with Justice System

  • witnesses tell story
  • jury inquires into narratives in order to make judgement

Stories vs. Narratives

  • A story is a recounted sequence of events
  • Narrative is an organized, plotted, interpreted accounts of events (Square et. al,2014).

Research Puzzles

  • less precise than a research question
  • less expectation of an answer
  • re-search; continual reformulation as new stories are told

Starting Points

  1. listening to stories
  2. co-living stories

Narrative inquirers are always in relationship with the participants, and, contrary to other qualitative methods, do not bracket themselves, but rather, live in the midst of the participants and bring their own stories to bear.


Clandinin, D. J. (2013). Engaging in narrative inquiry. Left Coast Press.

  • Jean Clandinin pioneered the practice of narrative inquiry and continues to be an active scholar in the field, publishing both about and with narrative inquiry.

Dwyer, R., Davis, I., and emerald, E. (2017). Narrative research in practice: Stories from the field. Singapore, Singapore: Springer.

  • This collection synthesizes and presents the framework to understanding diverse possibilities for research that uses narrative methods

Elliot, J.(2005). Using narrative in social research. London: Thousand Oaks.

  • With a focus on narrative research, Eliot discusses recent developments in social research methods across the qualitative/quantitative divide

Hinchman, L.P., and Hinchman, S.K.(1997). Memory, identity, community: The idea of narrative in the human sciences. New York: University of New York.

Huber, J., Caine, V., Huber, M., & Steeves, P. (2013). Narrative Inquiry as Pedagogy in Education: The Extraordinary Potential of Living, Telling, Retelling, and Reliving Stories of Experience. Review of Research in Education, 37(1), 212–242.

Johnson, R. B., & Christensen, L. (2017). Educational research: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed approaches (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

  • Chapter 15 introduces foundational question of narrative research with its defining characteristics and terms.

Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., McNaughton Nicholis, C. and Ormston, R.(2014). Qualitative Research Practice: A Guide for Social Science Students and Researchers, London: SAGE.

  • The authors highlight the way narrative is constructed, the nature of audience involved and how findings are analyzed and reported.

Sherry (March 31, 2014). Narrative research.[ video file]. Retrieved from

  • Sherry highlights the origin, trend and common features of narrative research. The author also briefly describes how narrative research can be conducted.

Square, C.,Davis, M., Esin, C., Andrews, M., Harrison, B., Hyden, L. and Hyden, M.(2014). What is narrative research. NewYork: BloomsBurry Collection.

  • The book gives an overview of narrative research is, contemporary terms used by researchers, and what possibilities and limitations narrative research offers .