“ethnography of narration”

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    greetings to all methodspace members!
    i would like to solicit your views on “ethnography of narration” as a methodology in data collection. during my field work in makassar, indonesia (2006-2008) for my dissertation, i discovered that aside from reflexibility so common among sociologists, data collection for literary students (like me) was more significant when interpreted as narratives. narration as a genre is very perssuasive and effective in creating categories and concepts while in the field. in fact, within phenomenology, some researchers use narrative constructs because lived experienced when categorized into themes would suggest that we are confining realities based on our own way of making sense of the data. whereas, if we reduce the data into “narratives”, the complete picture remains.
    happy new year!


    Thanks for good content


    Very enlightening. Am also working on my dissertation and would like to probe into your ethnography of narration. My email is jovyz@yahoo.com. Good luck


    wow, you have touched on something that I am currently working on. I collected data on experiences and expressions of psychological distress in South Africa. I agree. Further, presenting narratives also allows for the data to ‘speak’ in its authentic and spontaneous way rather than themes-themes seem to compartmentalize a phenomenon that is inseparable in the narratives. For example, participants spoke of experiences simultaneously or as inseparable with expressions and trying to create these as themes misrepresent them.


    you’re right. creating themes based on the participants’ narratives is part of coding the data. however, once the themes have been done, we still need to connect them to our theory. a friend who is into counselling asked me to help her organize her data on children of divorce. the thick data of their disclosures are really difficult to understand without reducing them into individual narratives. after reading the interview transcripts, i reduced the data into what i call phenomenological frames, visualized in a content grid. for instance, i reduced the effects of divorce into internalizing, externalizing, and mediating. then i clustered the individual narratives which fit in each of these frames. there are still other steps, but the analysis ends with seven constructs (as categories to answer the research questions). further discussions link the intepretation with family systems theory and attachment theory.
    narratives are very helpful in data reduction, especially when our participants are individuals who have their own stories to tell. or, as what you’ve said, those whose voices should be heard.
    i think you are doing fine with your research and your supervisor is there to guide you.
    good luck.


    yes, there are phenomena embedded in the individual narratives. we create themes based on the data (but the way we compose the theme also depends on how extensive our background knowledge and experience is). i am teaching research this semester, and last week, i gave my students the same interview transcripts to code. it was interesting because although the different codes converge (in terms of terminologies), some students are more reflective in their themes. of course, themes can be descriptive, inferential, and semantic in general, but i have one student who has shown a more mature set of themes.
    thanks for sharing your thoughts. cheers!


    hi! what area are you into? it’s good to hear that you’re into ethnography of narration. all the best for you.

    Francisco Vieira

    Hi, Ivie !

    Thanks for your discussion. I am a little bit curious about how you conduct the analysis of the narratives. Could you tell us about the procedure that you use? Thanks, again.

    Francisco Vieira


    hello. are you referring to the transcripts on divorce (see my reply to marjorie)? the thing about qualitative analysis is its flexibility (not because we researchers don’t know what we are doing) – our experimentation of coding texts and tranforming them into themes or constructs. this is just to clarify because un my study on makassar, i approached narratives in a different angle – fragmentary recollection.
    for the divorce transcripts, the procedure is very much the same as in any thick data we collect from interviews, field notes, etc.
    first, we read through the typed data
    second, we review the research questions and relect on what categories would capture the phenomenon (from the data) – thus reducing the codes
    third, we try to connect all these codes to the researchg questions. if some are weak, we rephrase or change the codes; from these codes we write the individual narrative
    fourth, we weave the individual narratives so that their experiences will be linked with phenomenon being studies/investigated
    fifth, we put all these into a content grid.
    if at this point we have reached the saturation point, we stopped. however, if we feel that the experiences can still be explored (say reducing the individual narratives into constructs – can be psychological, sociological, political, etc), then continue.
    anyway, this is sketchy, but i hope it helps.


    Probably narratives resist any instrumental appropriation. The first person content of the speaker, once formulated on the basis of shareable codes and information gives rise to the problem of induced communication and meaning. Therefore one requires a complementary method of recovery of the first person voice from disciplinary rendering of voices into narratives. But every recovery needs to recreate the context of the informant, once again a reconstruction of an after-world by a researcher herself. An ethongraphy of narrative gets entrenched into these multiple layers of production and reproduction in the process of organizing itself into narratives to be available to the community of reserachers. Can anyone now tell me what is the way out?

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