Ethnography, Observational Research, and Narrative Inquiry

Narrative Inquiry

Narrative inquiry is the process of gathering information for the purpose of research through storytelling. The researcher then writes a narrative of the experience. Connelly and Clandinin (1990) note that, "Humans are storytelling organisms who, individually and collectively, lead storied lives. Thus, the study of narrative is the study of the ways humans experience the world." In other words, people's lives consist of stories.

Field notes, interviews, journals, letters, autobiographies, and orally told stories are all methods of narrative inquiry. For example, a researcher might do a study on the way in which fourth grade girls define their social roles in school. A researcher might look at such things as notes and journal entries,and might also interview the girls and spend time observing them. After this, the researcher would then construct her own narrative of the study, using such conventions as scene and plot. As Connelly and Clandinin also note,"Research is a collaborative document, a mutually constructed story out of the lives of both researcher and participant."

Narrative inquiry is appropriate to many social science fields. The entire field of study is often used in disciplines such as literary theory, history, anthropology, drama, art, film, theology, philosophy, psychology, linguistics, education, politics, nutrition, medicine, and even aspects of evolutionary biological science.

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Introduction