Second candidacy essay
Richard Giovannoli, M.A.
The purpose of this essay is to lead the reader to a fuller understanding of the narrative inquiry approach to research—what it is; what unique perspectives it provides; and how it is carried out. This essay will explore some of the controversies surrounding this and other forms of qualitative research methodology—especially in the areas of significance, validity and reliability—and present justification for the use of narrative methodology in specific inquiry situations. My primary interest is in psychotherapy. I came to discover the narrative method out of an interest in how and why we make meaning in our lives. I am interested in personality psychology and in the formation and understanding of the self. I have come to believe that narrative is essentially more than the telling of stories. I believe that narrative is the way we create and recreate our realities and ourselves. I believe that a therapist is a narrative researcher, and I hope to demonstrate in this essay that, because we create ourselves in narrative, narrative methodology is a most appropriate means for the study of human beings. Although a fuller understanding of what is meant by narrative and narrative research will hopefully develop during the course of this
essay, it would be helpful to the reader to have a working definition at the outset. While the terms narrative and narrative research appear often in qualitative studies, it is rare to find these terms defined (Lieblich, 1998; Riessman, 1993). According to Webster’s Dictionary (1966), a narrative is defined as a “discourse, or an example of it, designed to represent a connected succession of happenings” (p. 1503). Perhaps the most concise definition is that proposed by Smith (1981): Narratives are “verbal acts consisting of someone telling someone else that something happened”(Smith, 1981). Polkinghorne (1988), while... [continues]
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