Narrative Inquiry


The most commonly accepted definition of narrative inquiry is that it is a way of understanding experience. Human beings live lives that are shaped by their experiences within personal, familial, social, institutional, professional, linguistic, cultural, and historical narratives. This entry on narrative inquiry focuses on the ontological and epistemological underpinnings of narrative inquiry and how these have shaped development of the methodology and methods over time. It explores key touchstones, which mark narrative inquiries, and points out current and anticipated methodological issues. The stories people tell, stories that are told for and about them, and stories that they engage with influence their sense-making. Relational ethics shape researchers’ ongoing negotiations alongside participants, as well as their responsibilities and obligations. Central to each narrative inquiry is the ongoing engagement between researchers and participants; this is visible in narrative inquirers’ commitment to co-compositions. Narrative inquirers understand lives as always in the midst, always in motion, which has significant implications for the ways in which they represent their work. Understanding that their intentions in narrative inquiry are not to generate singular truth allows narrative inquirers to carefully consider what they represent in research texts. While attending to multiple audiences, each research text always makes visible the personal, practical, and social justifications of their work.

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