The nature of how we view the world, or the ontology that we ascribe to as researchers, is foundational in approaching our inquiry. Croswell (2013) describes interpretative frameworks as postpositive, social constructivism, transformative frameworks, postmodern perspectives, pragmatism, feminist theories, critical theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and disability theories.

Each of these frameworks has its way of understanding the world with various nuances. In my practice, I find myself highly connected with Social Work and social work values. The National Association of Social Workers (NASW, 2017) describes six core values for social workers in the preamble to the code of ethics. These include:

These values do not necessarily push a researcher into ascribing to one of the specific theories. Many of the interpretive frameworks make strong connections to these values. Kim (2016) describes Feminist Theory in her highly personal relationship with it and how it is associated with ending oppression, sexism, and sexist exploitation. Feminist theory connects social worker values of social justice and dignity and worth of the person.

Within a similar vein, participatory action research is described by Creswell (2013) as having a plan to reform and change both the lives of the co-researchers:

“Qualitative research, then, should contain an action agenda for reform that may change the lives of participants, the institutions in which they live and work, or even the researchers’ lives. The issues facing these marginalized groups are of paramount importance to study, issues such as oppression, domination, suppression, alienation, and hegemony. As these issues are studied and exposed, the researchers provide a voice for these participants, raising their consciousness and improving their lives” (p. 26).

This focus of a transformative framework, especially the use of participatory action research, is a significant reason I am looking toward connecting with this a framework for my inquiry. Within the transformative framework, connections could be made to each of the six social worker values. Last semester I created a visual map demonstrating the intersection with social work, special education services, and resilience that describes connections between them (Campbell, 2020).

Within this format, there is an epistemology that is also important to follow. Not all types of research questions lend themselves to a narrative approach. Mertens (2009) describes the flow of decisions in planning and conducting transformative research as being nonlinear. The study completed should prioritize community involvement, and the findings of the inquiry should either help make decisions or community action. It is a co-created process. That means the type of research questions suitable for a narrative approach, within a transformative framework, must be pointed towards this.


Campbell, J. ( 2020) Participatory research methodology and it’s intersection with social work, special education services, and resilience.

Creswell, J. W. (2013). 2 Philosophical assumptions and interpretive frameworks. In Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed, pp. 15-41). SAGE Publications.

Kim, J.-H. (2016). Understanding narrative inquiry: the crafting and analysis of stories as research. SAGE.

Mertens, D. M. (2009). 5 A transformative research and evaluation model. In Transformative research and evaluation (pp. 136-163). The Guilford Press

National Association of Social Workers. (2017). NASW code of ethics.

Author Note

The following essay was originally posted to the online discussion forum for TSD 6660 - Narrative Research as a part of my Ph.D. Studies in Transformative Studies at the California Institute of Integral Studies.