Posted on January 25, 2018 at 2:45 PM


Narrative analysis emerged as a discipline from within the broader field of qualitative research in the early 20th century. Narrative inquiry uses field texts, such as stories, autobiography, journals, field notes, letters, conversations, interviews, family stories, photos (and other artifacts), and life experience, as the units of analysis to research and understand the way people create meaning in their lives as narratives.

Narratives or stories occur when one or more speakers engage in sharing and recounting an experience or event. Typically, the telling of a story occupies multiple turns in the course of a conversation and stories or narratives may share common structural features.

Narratives are viewed is a type of cultural ‘envelope’ in which people pour their experiences and relate their importance to others.

‘Narrative analysis focus on broad conatus of Narrative; stories are not fractured and dissected.


1. Constructing
2. Reconstructing
3. Narrating
4. Analyzing

Constructing- Individuals construct stories when they wish to understand specific events and situations that require linking an inner world of desire and motive to an external world of observable action.

Reconstructing- Individuals reconstruct stories by filling the gaps in comprehending the stories..

Narrating- Individuals narrate stories to others.

Analyzing- Analyzing stories opens up forms of telling about experience and is more than just content. Narrative analysts ask, or why was the story told that ways?

Dimensions of Narrative Approach:-
1. People organize significant events in terms of stories and through the telling of there stories, they make meaning of their experiences in lives.
2. Time and plot are structured properties of Narratives. Events in a story follow a sequence.
3. Narratives have a cultural contextual they do not occur by themselves.
4. Narratives are relational, stories are told to other people.
5. Narratives have power to shape human behavior. Narratives can be used to produce a moral story of how people are supposed to behave.

Approaches in Narrative analysis:-
I. Linguistic Approach- Gee (1991)
• This Method draws on oral rather than text based traditions.
• Emphasize how the story is told.
• Attention given to changes in pitch, loudness, stress and length of various syllables, as well as to hesitations and pauses.
• Examines the cohesion of each sentence or line, how they form larger units (Stanzas).
• Also examines rhetorical function of each stanza in relation to every other stanza.
• Stanzas, are then organized into larger units (Strophes), which are analyzed to see how the themes of the text are organized.

II. Structural Approach- Labov (1967)
This approach consists of following 6 components. It is in social context.(Hospital, Home).
1. Abstract- Summary
2. Orientation- Time, Place, individuals.
3. Complicating action- Sequence of events.
4. Evaluation- Significance of the action.
5. Result on resolution- What occurred at the end.
6. Coda- Perspective returned back to the present.

III. Pentadic dramatism Burke’s (1969).
Five key elements for analysis of narratives are:-
1. Act (What was done)
2. Scene (Where it was done)
3. Agent (Who did it)
4. Agency (How he did it)
5. Purpose (Why?)

The analysis focuses on internal relationship and tensions of there five key terms to each. The pairing of pentad provides a different ‘terministic screen’ for viewing the story.
It finds the interaction of the Pentadic terms and the imbalances of two or more terms. Pairs: -
Act: Agent.
Act: Scene.
Agent: Agency.
Purpose: Agent

Bruner (1991) modified ‘Burkes’ pentad with a addition of a sixth term called Trouble ‘T’ to make more focus on imbalance between the terms.

Example of a Narrative analysis using Burke’s approach:-

Beck (2006) conducted a narrative analysis of birth trauma. Eleven mothers sent their stories of traumatic childbirth to the researches via the Internet.

Burke’s pentad of terms was used to analyze these narratives. The most problematic ration imbalance appeared prominently in the data between act and agency. Frequently in the mother’s narratives, it was ‘How’ an act was carried by the labors and delivery staff that led to the women perceiving their childbirth as traumatic.

Beck C.T ‘Caring within Nursing education Journal of Neg. education 2001, 40,101-109.
Beck Tatano Cheryl polite F-Denise Nursing Research, 8th edition 2008, Walters, Kluwer, New Delhi pp 236.

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