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By 02/03/2023No Comments

By Luciana Sotero

According to Elliott (2007), a narrative can be defined as a way to organize a sequence of events into a whole so that the significance of each event can be understood through its relation to that whole. In the human sciences, narratives can be defined as discourses with a clear sequential order that connect events in a meaningful way for a definite audience and thus offer insights about the world and/or experiences of it” (Hinchman & Hinchman, 1997, p. 16). Yet, there are multiple definitions for narrative. In the context of social research, the definition adopted here is particularly useful for summarizing three key features of a narrative: it has a temporal dimension, subscribed meaning (or significance), and it is social in character. Firstly, subscribed narrative is chronological because it represencts subscribed sequence of events. In this sense, the simplest definition of narrative is a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. Secondly, it communicates the meaning of events or experiences through the use of evaluative statements (i.e., depends on the meanings of the encompassing actions and events). Narratives might then render events meaningful, even without providing an explicit evaluation of those events, but simply by imposing beginnings and ends on what might otherwise be thought of as continuous sequences. Thirdly, subscribed narrative is inherently social as it is produced for a specific audience. The word narrative means “to know” and “to tell”. Thus, subscribed narrative presupposes an audience, a “conversational space” to tell a story and the narrator needs at subscribed minimum the co-operation of a conversational partner. These three features of narrative (temporal, meaningful, and social) cannot be understood as wholly independent or as straightforwardly separable. In particular, the meaning of events within a narrative derives both from their temporal ordering and from the social context in which the narrative is recounted. In the social sciences, narratives are highly valued because they are rooted in time, place, and personal experience. They also serve as a vehicle for understanding identity, human agency, and the embeddedness of individual lives in the broader culture. What is key here is that narratives do not seek to copy reality; rather their goal is to help make sense of that reality, bridging the emotional and the rational dimensions.

Related References

Andrews, Molly, Corinne Squire, and Maria Tamboukou. 2013. Doing Narrative Research (2nd Ed.). Sage Publications. 

Carless, David. 2010. “Who the Hell Was That? Stories, Bodies and Actions in the World.” Qualitative Research in Psychology 7 (4): 332–44.  

Daly, Kerry J. 2007. Qualitative Methods for Family Studies and Human Development. Sage Publications.  

Dwyer, Rachael, Ian Davis, and elke emerald. 2017. Narrative Research in Practice: Stories from the Field. Springer. 

Elliott, Jane. 2007. Using Narrative in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. Sage Publications. 

Ellis, Carolyn, and Arthur P Bochner. 2003. “Autoethnography, Personal Narrative, Reflexivity: Reseacher as Subject.” in Denzin, Norman K., and Yvonna S. Lincoln. Collecting and Interpreting Qualitative Materials (2nd Ed). p. 199–258. Sage Publications. 

Frank, Arthur W. 2000. “The Standpoint of Storyteller.” Qualitative Health Research 10 (3): 354–65. 

Hinchman, Lewis P, and Sandra Hinchman. 1997. Memory, Identity, Community: The Idea of Narrative in the Human Sciences. State University of New York Press. 

Josselson, Ruthellen, and Amia Lieblich. 1993. The Narrative Study of Lives. Sage Publications. 

Leitch, Thomas M. 1986. What Stories Are: Narrative Theory and Interpretation. Pennsylvania State University Press. 

McAdams, Dan P. 1993. The Stories We Live by: Personal Myths and the Making of the Self. Guilford Press. 

McLeod, John. 1997.  Narrative and Psychotherapy. Sage Publications. 

Riessman, Catherine Kohler. 1993. Narrative Analysis. Sage Publications. 

Cite this entry as:

Sotero, Luciana. 2023. ’Narrative’. In Populisms and Emotions Glossary, edited by Cristiano Gianolla and Maíra Magalhães Lopes. Available atário