Researchers who use narrative inquiry focus on telling the stories of the participants of their studies. There are so many different approaches to narrative inquiry though — how might one begin? What is meant by the term “narrative”? That depends on the perspective to narrative that one takes. Some argue that narrative data can include open-ended survey data, through interview data, to written narratives. From this perspective, “narrative” is being used synonymously with “words” or “textual data”. Others argue that narratives are stories that have a beginning, middle and an end. That is, narratives are stories that involve a plot with temporal order. Another way to approach is to think about how “stories” about human experience are organized and told. Donald Polkinghorne (1995) discusses two approaches to narrative – that of “paradigmatic” approaches to narrative that compare and contrast people’s stories. Approaches to analysis that use coding to highlight the topics of talk and then sort topics into different categories in order to generate themes use a paradigmatic approach to narrative analysis. Polkinghorne also discusses the idea of “narrative configuration”. This means that researchers take all sorts of data (for example, documents, letters, photos and interview data) and configure […]