Narrative Analysis and Nursing Research

Afza.Malik GDA

Nursing Research and Narrative Analysis

Narrative Analysis and Nursing Research

Narrative Analysis,Uses of Narrative Analysis,Sources,Types of Orientation,structural orientation,storytelling orientation,interpretive orientation.

Narrative Analysis

     Narrative analysis is gaining popularity among nurse researchers as one of the representative modes of studying human experiences, of both clients and nurses, especially from the perspective of interpretivism. 

Uses of Narrative Analysis

    Narrative analysis is being used in many different disciplines: literary studies, linguistics, anthropology, psychology, sociology, theology, history, and practice disciplines such as nursing, medicine, occupational therapy, and social work.


    All sorts of oral and written representations are considered narrative fables, folktales, short stories, case histories, exemplars, news reports, personal stories, historiography, interview data, and so forth. 

    Although there are controversies, the term narrative in narrative analysis refers to a story that contains two or more sequentially ordered units, with a beginning, middle, and ending, and represents structured meaning. Narratives are structured about a story plot or plots illustrated by characters (actors) and events. 

    Narratives as stories are characterized by a sense of internal chronology (either temporal or thematic) and connectedness that brings about coherence and sense making. Narratives differ from discourse in that narratives contain descriptions of chronologically articulated events along with sketches of characters of that story.

    As narratives are human linguistic products, their construction is closely tied to "storytelling," that is, the processes involved in producing them. Storytelling is often the object of analysis, along with narratives themselves, in narrative analysis.

Types of Orientation

    The heterogeneity of narratives, representative disciplinary research, and the varieties in narrative theories have evidenced in various approaches and orientations in narrative analysis. There are at least three diverse orientations within narrative analysis: 

(a) structural orientation.

(b) storytelling orientation.

(c) interpretive orientation (for other ways of categorizing narrative analysis and a typology of models, see Mishler, 1995).

    Structural orientation can be identified with structuralists such as Barthes (1974) and sociolinguists such as Labov (1972) and Gee (1991). In this orientation, narratives are thought to be organized about a specific set of structural units that bring about coherence and connectivity in the narratives. 

    Attention to narrative structures is analytically juxta posed to such aspects as functions that different structural units perform sense making in story, or narrativity.

    Narrative analysis in the structuralist tradition within literary studies and linguistics focuses on structural functional connections, as in Propp's (1968) morphology in relation to internal patterning and narrative genre and in Genette's (1988) three specific aspects of a story's temporal articulation (ie, order , frequency, and duration). 

    In this tradition, narratives subjected to analysis tend to be public material such as folktales, novels, short stories, and case histories.

    Sociolinguists attend to "natural" or "situated" narratives, which are constructed produced in specific situations of social life. Labov (1972) identified six structural units for fully formed narratives: abstract, orientation, complicating action, evaluation, resolution, and coda. 

    He suggested that these structural units are related to two functions in narrative: the referential function and the evaluative function. Gee (1991), on the other hand, identified structural properties of narrative as poetic structures of lines, stanzas, or strophes, which organize meaning constructions in telling a story. 

    The structural orientation is primarily an examination of structural elements of story in relation to the narrative's form, function, and meaning.

    In storytelling, narratives are not viewed simply as products that can be taken out of the context of narrating but as process oriented constructions that are enmeshed with linguistic materialization of cognition and memory, interactive structuring between the teller and listener, and contextually and culturally constrained shaping of experiences and ideas. 

    From this standpoint, narrative analysis is closely aligned with discourse analysis, as in ethnography of communication in anthropology and ethnomethodology in sociology.

    Narrative analysis in this orientation is differentiated into two schools; linguistic/cognitive and sociocultural. The linguistic/cognitive version focuses on how narratives are materialized in language from ideas and experiences. 

    This construction is viewed to be accomplished by applying communicative and interactive functions of language and through scripting and schematizing of yet unorganized information into connected storytelling. 

    In this version, storytelling is considered as the processing of nonlinguistic ideas, events, and actions into a series of connected and coherent representations of meanings.

    On the other hand, narrative analysis in the sociological version within the ethnos methodological tradition is concerned with. the interactive process of narrative making. Conversational narratives are of prime interest. 

    The listener is an active part of storytelling as an interactive participant in the making of a story. From an anthropological perspective, storytelling is viewed as bounded by cultural conditions and cultural categories. 

    Narrative analysis in this orientation carries out an analysis of narrative texts in terms of form and content, along with an analysis of the flow of storytelling, with the assumption that the nature of narrative text is integrally connected to the processes of construction.

    Narratives in the interpretive orientation are chronological in a double sense: chronology in terms of temporal serialization of events and chronology in terms of temporality of story itself. Ricoeur (1984) specified episodic and configurational dimensions as the temporal dialectics that integrated plot in narrative. 

    Hence, narratives are stories of individuals etched within the communal stories of the time and context. Narrative analysis thus involves interpretation of representation posed within the contexts in which the story is shaped and the storytelling occurs, reflecting on the world views that provide a larger contextual understanding. 

    In this sense, the interpretative orientation is more concerned with the meaning of narratives than with either the structure or the process.

    Riessman (1993) offers five levels of representation in the research process of narrative analysis: attending, telling, transcribing, analyzing, and reading. Interpretation occurs at the levels of transcribing and analyzing by the researcher, whereas the level of reading implies additional interpretation that occurs in the readers of research reports. 

    Riessman favors the use of poetic structures as the mode of structuring narratives as interpretive; however, the use of any specific structuring model is less critical for the analysis than interpretation.

    Although there are distinct differences among these orientations, there are many hybrid forms of narrative analysis used in actual research practice. Hybrid forms often combine analysis of process or meaning with structural analysis.     

In nursing research, narrative analysis has been applied with various orientations and in different hybrid forms. Narratives of clients' personal experiences, such as suffering, being diagnosed with cancer, isolation, and dying, have been studied by applying Labov or Gee as well as within the storytelling orientation.     

    Narratives of practice by nurses have been subjected to analyzes in the interpretive orientation for understanding the meanings of their practice and their value orientations. 

    In addition, the interpretive orientation from the feminist perspective has been used to study women's experiences, such as health care seeking, pregnancy with the history of drug abuse, and recovery. 

    Research of narrative accounts of clients and nurses, as well as their interactions, can produce deep understanding of human experiences that are fundamental to nursing practice.

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