The Broad Strokes of Narrative Inquiry: Looking at Complexity and Narrative Accounts

Narrative research offers the researcher a broad range of techniques for analyzing and interpreting data. Kim (2016) proposes surprise and curiosity as a process that evolves through managing the data collected for our inquiry. She argues that within this flirtation method, the researcher can address the research design and purpose by deepening modifying and adapting the existing methods of analysis.

Narrative research fits within the bounds of qualitative research methods. Kim (2016) defines it as:

Narrative researchers try to interpret meanings through an analysis of plotlines, thematic structures, and social and cultural referents. These meanings are to be analyzed and interpreted concurrently in a transitional period to the research text. (p. 323).

Concepts such as looking through narrative data for themes, patterns, categories, and codes make up the essential qualitative data analysis elements. Lieblich et al. (1998) explain a variety of types of research that can be done using narrative research. Studies might include pilot studies or might be based on following a more mixed-methods approach.

Kim (2016) illuminates two broad purposes that can be filled by a narrative inquiry. First, it can be used to interpret data to understand a phenomenon (an act of understanding). Second, to facilitate an understanding of the phenomenon for the reader (instrumental understanding). She describes strategies such as focus, omission, addition, appropriate, and transposition to help with this interpretation.

The stories told through a narrative inquiry are built around a set of core facts or life events. They are being told as the participant remembers them. Both in the storyteller and the listener, Lieblich et al. (1998) describes that they are not full representations of reality (e.g., being complete and accurate).

Lieblich et al. (1998) describe four different quadrants that narrative inquiry can fall for its analysis. It is divided up between content and form. In each of the divisions, it can either be holistic or categorical.

Holistic-content Holistic-form
Categorical-content Categorical-form

One way a researcher can look at their inquiry they can either consider it from the perspective of the whole. The other way would be to dissect it into parts and complete the analysis based on various aspects of the data in a more categorical approach. Either way, Lieblich et al. (1998) share that both supervision and experience are the best ways to learn how to perform narrative research. Now is the time for me to go back and continue working on my interview analysis to continue gaining experience.


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

Lieblich, A., Tuval-Mashiach, R., & Zilber, T. (1998). Chapter 1 - A new model for classification of approaches to reading, analysis, and interpretations. In Narrative research: reading, analysis and interpretation (pp. 2-20). Sage Publications.

Author Note

This essay was oritionally posted as discusson forum for TSD 6660 - Narrative Research while at CIIS as a part of my Ph.D. Program.