Gifted Stories: How well do we retell the stories that research participants give us?
Authors: Jones, K. and Fenge, L.-A.
Journal: Creative Approaches to Research
Narrative methods contribute greatly to the advances made in qualitative research. A narrative style should also be promoted in publications and presentations. A study on older LGBT citizens in rural Britain highlights this by means of a report on one part of that study—a Focus Group.
The paper demonstrates two ways of writing Focus Group material for publication. First, “data bits” extracted from the transcript are embedded by interpretive categories. The authors ask, “How did this come about? Isn’t it time to shift our approach and report these experiences in a different way? Was this not a story of the interactions of strangers and a growing social group cohesion that was taking place by means of this very research exercise?” Secondly, a large section of the Focus Group transcript is presented, including nuances such as breaks, how one person’s thought follows another’s, and the energy created when several people talk at once. Doing this without comment or interruption brings the reader closer to the group experience itself.
The Focus Group provided a opportunity for participants to share a common history and identify individual experiences. Focus Groups can provide marginalised groups with an opportunity to collectively create new knowledge and understanding about shared cultural and historical experiences.
Narrative researchers are natural storytellers and need to foreground this when reporting studies for publication. Qualitative research is always about story reporting and story making, and narrative research (listening to and retelling stories) is a key democratising factor in qualitative social science research.