Narrative Inquiry

Leaders: Dr. Ryan Rominger, Dr. Jim Lane  

Narrative Research Methods

Narrative research methods are exemplified by studies which focus on a participant’s narrative, or story. While housed within the overarching label ‘narrative research’ there are actually many different types of narrative research (NR). Some NR focuses on analyzing the elements of a participant’s story, while others focus on creating a meta-narrative, or even identifying themes within the different participants’ narratives. Some narrative research may include art (an element of art-based research) to help flesh out the verbal narratives. These creative elements may include poetry, visual art, movement, or expressions through many different media. However, the more traditional narrative research focuses on interviews with study participants.

As a group, narrative research methods aligns well with a constructivist worldview, which asserts that we as humans create, or co-create, our reality. This creative aspect may focus more on perception of reality and the ability to change our personal narratives, or it may focus on a belief that verification of an external reality (if it exists) is limited due to inherent subjective experience of reality (i.e., we can only experience the world through our own perceptions). Either way, the basic goal is to obtain a participant’s personal narrative regarding a specific lived experience so as to better understand how the narrative, and perceptions of the experience, unfold. Those studying organizational or personal identity often utilize NR to understand how the identity came to be. More activist-oriented narrative research may go a step further, and invite the participant to re-Story her or his narrative (as is seen in narrative based psychotherapy) as a way of promoting transformation and change through the research process itself.

If you would like to explore and dialogue further about narrative research methods, please visit the Narrative Research Methods forum.

Narrative Research Methods Resources

Narrative Research Websites/Videos

Education specific video, although provides a good overview of NR

Narrative Research Design

Ehterington, Kim - Professor Emeritus, University of Bristol: Narrative Approaches to Case Studies

Resources Describing the Method (under construction)

Bochner, A.P. (2014). Coming to narrative: A personal history of paradigm change in the human sciences. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press.

Boje, D. M. (2001). Narrative methods of organizational and communication research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Eight approaches to analyzing how an organization tells its stories - or doesn’t.

Brown, L. M., & Gilligan, C. (1991). Listening for voice in narrative of relationship. New Directions for Child Development, 54, 43-62.

Bruner, J. (1986). Actual minds, possible worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Bruner, J. (1990). Acts of meaning. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Psychologist Jerome Bruner reexamines the strengths and weaknesses of cognitive psychology, arguing for a cultural perspective that recognizes human storytelling as an act of meaning making.

Bruner, J. (1991).    The narrative construction of reality. Critical Inquiry, 18, 1-21.

Butler-Kisber, L. (2010). Qualitative inquiry: Thematic, narrative, and arts-informed perspectives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Chase, S. (2018). Narrative inquiry: Toward theoretical and methodological maturity.” In N.K. Denzin & Y.S. Lincoln(eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research (5th ed, pp. 546-560), Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Clandinin, D. J. (Ed.). (2006). Handbook of narrative inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Clandinin, D.J. (2013). Engaging in narrative inquiry. Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press

Clandinin, D.J., Caine, V., Lessard, S. & Huber, J.  (2016). Engaging in narrative inquiries with children and youth. New York, NY: Routledge.

Clandinin, D.J. & Connelly, F.M. (2000). Narrative inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Clandinen, J.C., Huber, J., Huber, M., Murphy, M.S., Orr, A.M., Pearce, M., & Steeves, P. (2006). Composing diverse identities: Narrative inquiries into the interwoven lives of children and teachers. New York, NY: Routledge.

Clandinin, D. J., Murphy, M. S., Huber, J., & Orr, A. M. (2009). Negotiating narrative inquiries: Living in a tension-filled midst. The Journal of Educational Research, 103(2), 81-90. doi:10.1080/00220670903323404

Clandinin, D. J., Pushor, D., & Orr, A. M. (2007). Navigating sites for narrative inquiry. Journal of Teacher Education, 58(1), 21-35. doi:10.1177/0022487106296218

Creswell, J., & Poth, C. N. (2017). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (4th ed.). Los Angeles, CA: Sage.

This text describes the use of narrative research, phenomenology, grounded theory, ethnography, and case study.

DeConcini, B. (1990). Narrative remembering. Lanham, MD: University Press of America.

Dewey. J. (1997). Experience and education. New York, NY: Touchstone. (Original work published 1938).

Freeman, M. (1993). Rewriting the self. London: Routledge.

Hendry, P. M. (2009). Narrative as inquiry. The Journal of Educational Research, 103(2), 72-80. doi:10.1080/00220670903323354

Howard, G. S. (1991). Cultural tales: A narrative approach to thinking, cross-cultural psychology

and psychotherapy. American Psychologist, 46(3), 187-197.

Hutchinson, D. A. (2015). Coming to understand experience: Dewey's theory of experience and narrative inquiry. Journal of Thought, 49(3-4), 3-17

Josselson, R. (1996). Ethics and process in the narrative study of lives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Josselson, R. (2007). The ethical attitude in narrative research: Principles and practicalities. In J.Clandinin (Ed.), The Handbook of Narrative Inquiry. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Josselson, R., & Lieblich, A. (1993). The narrative study of lives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Josselson, R., & Lieblich, A. (1995). Interpreting experience: The narrative study of lives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

Kim, J. (2008). A romance with narrative inquiry: Toward an act of narrative theorizing. Curriculum and Teaching Dialogue, 10(1/2), 251

Lieblich, A., & Josselson, R. (1999). Meaning making of narratives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Linde, C. (1993). Life stories. New York: Oxford University Press.

Mishler, E. (2000). Storylines: Craftartists’ narratives of identity. New Haven, CT: Harvard University Press.

An in-depth analysis of five craftartists using narrative research methods as a model ofthe analysis for the systematic study of life stories and identity. The author concludes that identity is always fluid, dialogic, and relational, a complex of partial subidentities rather than a unitary monad.

Myerhoff, B. (1992). Remembered lives. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Polkinghorne, D. E. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany: State University of New York Press.

The author discusses using narrative forms, such as clinical life histories, organizational case studies, biographic material, corporate cultural designs, and literary products, in conducting narrative research.

Riessman, C. K. (1993). Narrative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Succinct presentation of current developments in narrative analysis, including examples of narrative analysis applied to life stories, conversation, and poetry and metaphor.

Riessman, C.K. (2008). Narrative analysis for the human sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

Rosenwald, G. C., & Ochberg, R.L. (Eds.) (1992). Storied lives. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Rosenwald, G., & Ochberg, R. (Eds.) (1994). Telling lives. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Sarbin, T. R. (Ed.). (1986). Narrative psychology: The storied nature of human conduct. New York: Praeger.

Savin-Baden, M., & Niekerk, L. V. (2007). Narrative inquiry: Theory and practice. Journal of Geography in Higher Education, 31(3), 459-472. doi:10.1080/03098260601071324

Vaz, K. M. (1997). Oral narrative research with black women: Collecting treasures. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. 

Wertz, F. J., Charmaz, K., McMullen, L. M., Josselson, R., Anderson, R., & McSpadden, E. (2011). Five ways of doing qualitative analysis: Phenomenological psychology, grounded theory, discourse analysis, narrative research, and intuitive inquiry. New York, NY: Guilford.

This book offers a unique contribution as it uses five different qualitative analysis on one single data set. The reader is able to witness the different ways that respected researchers in their given fields each analyze an interview.


Yow, V. R. (1994). Recording oral history: A practical guide for social scientists. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.