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Narrative Analysis in Psychological Research: An Integrated Approach to Interpreting Stories

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For researchers and research participants alike, narrative is a pervasive structure with which we comprehend and convey the experiences and meanings of events, account for our own and others' behaviour, and reveal ourselves to others in the way in which we would like to be seen. In doing so, we also reveal something of the structure of our social world. For these reasons, the stories that people tell provide important information about their experience in relation to identity and social life. We provide a structured approach to conducting narrative analysis that accounts for the ways in which people position themselves through telling stories to an audience in the context of broader social life. This approach is exemplified by using data from a study of family life among older people who tell stories of their mothers. An approach to narrative that integrates personal and social stories is useful for psychologists who wish to understand the influence of social life and identity on people's experience of everyday issues, such as being in a family or being male, or for more specific concerns, such as life threatening illness and traumatic experience.
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Keywords: family; motherhood; narrative; qualitative methods; social psychology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand

Publication date: January 1, 2013

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