A Narrative Inquiry: The Experience of First-Generation College Students


First-generation college students are viewed as a group of at-risk individuals simply because their parents did not attend college. As a result, these students are at a higher risk of dropping out than other college students if their needs are not met. A number of researchers have conducted studies of first-generation college students in order to assess their needs. However, a majority of these studies are quantitative and ask the first-generation student to answer multiple closed-ended questions. Such restrictive questions allow students to express their feelings only about previously provided prompts. As a result, the voice of the first-generation college student is silenced.

This case study uses a narrative inquiry approach to give a voice to the at-risk population of first-generation college students. This approach provides researchers with insight into the participants' world by tapping into their lived experiences through storytelling. Meeting the needs of first-generation college students by revealing their personal issues can help lower their dropout rates, foster persistence, and contribute to success. The participants were a group of six first-generation college students in their freshman year. This case study addresses specific components of a narrative inquiry, such as developing appropriate research questions, constructing a semi-structured interview guide, memo writing, and snowball sampling.

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