Creative Writing and Qualitative Research

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    Dear all,

    I’m currently undertaking PhD research on the use of fairy tales in a creative writing classroom to engage children with environmental issues. As I’m working in an English and Creative Writing department, the final work produced will be principally creative; the children’s writing, and my own. However, I believe the research would be enhanced by the inclusion of a qualitative analysis of the creative writing to allow discussion of the impact of the classes on the level of environmental engagement the children’s writing reflects.

    Creative writing, however, doesn’t appear to be a typical material for qualitative analysis, and I was wondering if anybody could point me in the directions of similar studies, or studies which analyze writing produced in a creative writing classroom? Or to any resources which may be of use!

    Thanks very much,



    Hi Joanna,  you should take a look at Gubrium, J. F., and J. A. Holstein. Postmodern Interviewing. SAGE Publications, 2003. The authors write about “a crisis in representation”. 

    Some questions: What overarching methodology are you using? What do you think would be the outcome of analysing the creative stories? What methods for data analysis are planning on using?

    david burlingame

    Joanna: I do not know of any similar studies per se but it seems to me you could engage in a ground theory approach once you have the children’s work. Then develop typologies as themes and consistent threads emerge from their work. A fellow student did his Ph.D. on developing a historical understanding of a large organization by listening to “story telling” among employees of the organization. He listened to stories employees told about past events, past employees, etc.


    Hi Joanne,

    Thanks for the recommendation. All these questions I am still working on. The aim is for it to be participatory action research using a grounded theory approach to explore attitudes to the non-human world in the children’s writing. The outcome of analyzing the creative stories is to explore more deeply in to how participants view animals in their writing, and whether this changes over the course of the classes. Hope this is a bit clearer!


    Hi David,

    Yes, thanks very much, this is the direction I was thinking of taking so that is a helpful confirmation!


    Pat Bazeley

    Given that the question you are asking in this instance is a social one (about environmental engagement) rather than one to do with the creative process, it seems to me you would treat these data like any others and apply common qualitative strategies to their analysis (reading, reflecting, coding, connecting, comparing, relating, etc). If you want to add a quantitative component, you could check the proportion of their various stories that deal with relevant environmental issues. You might also look at strategies used in narrative analysis – determining genre, structure, plot, etc. – especially if the story focuses on an animal. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out Bazeley, P. Qualitative data analysis: Practical strategies (Sage, 2013).


    Hi Pat,

    Thanks, that’s actually really helpful – I’m planning to treat the writing like typical qualitative data, but your answer helps to clarify why this isn’t problematic – because my question is a social one, rather than an analysis of the quality of the writing. Yes, that makes a lot of sense. I will also have a look at Qualitative data analysis. Thanks again.

    Elias Ortega-Aponte

    Hello Joanna:

    Thanks for sharing with us such an interesting topic. It is my sense that works on narrative might be helpful on this. You may want to take a look at Nancy Ammerman’s “Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes.” Although it deals mostly with religious/spiritual narrative, the discussion concerning the use/interpretation of narrative and meaning formation are solid and the secondary resource superb. Also, studies on the process of children’s imagination/cognition may be of interest to you, like: Alcock, Sophie. “Young children’s playfully complex communication: distributed imagination.” European Early Childhood Education Research Journal 18, no. 2 (June 2010): 215-228.  

    Shannon Lane

    Hi Joanna,

    I would recommend some of the techniques proposed by Arthur Frank in his book, Letting Stories Breathe, A Socio-Narratology. Good luck, it sounds like an interesting project!


    Elias Ortega-Aponte

    Thank you for this suggestions! 


    Hi Elias,

    These sound really interesting, thanks very much for the ideas, I’ll definitely check them out.


    Hi Shannon,

    That’s a great idea – I read about Arthur Frank’s book in Jack Zipes’ work but I’ve never read him first hand, so I’ll definitely have a look. Thanks.




    I am an undergraduate at Oklahoma State University, and am in my very first Research Methods class.  I was reading through the posts to try to find some help with the first part of my research report, the literature review, and research question and your post caught my attention.  My research question is: How do those who own companion animals perceive the relationship between themselves and their non-human companions, in contrast to those who feel that companion animals have no place in our social world.  I am struggling with some of the concepts that I am to address, mainly because many qualitative methods, concepts, and processes seem to overlap,  I realize you are very busy on your research, but am going to go out on a limb and ask if it would be inappropriate to ask you to take a look at what I have written and offer some feedback?  I am a non-traditional differently-abled student and graduate in May.  I am planning on attending grad school in the fall.  I have worked on several research teams just to learn more about and get experience with research, but this is the first time I am attempting to get my feet wet, so to speak.





    JhuCin Jhag


    Have you read about narrative analysis (e.g. Riessman, 1993) and other textual analysis (e.g. critical discourse analysis. It should be helpful. Also, what are your research questions? 


    Sorry, these articles is only portuguese.

    However , I think revisit the Sociological Imagination of Charles Wright Mills is interesting.


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