So, it was the time to work in the direction that would prevent me from squandering this opportunity of being with people very different from who I am and where I come from.
When that happens, it is so easy to ‘see what one wants to see’ rather than seeing what is there before one’s eyes. We all judge. We all are selective. We all … are so imperfect when it comes to dealing with reality different from our world-view.
Day: -3 task was to finalize my orientation, and I chose what is known as Narrative Inquiry.
A narrative is a story, and in so many ways, a story is what we all are interested in. We live them, act in them, both – as individuals, and as communities. We understand lives – ours and others – as stories. We learn through stories. It is a good idea to use stories as a tool of research as well. The general idea here is to enquire into stories, their content, their nature and come out of it with insight.
So, why not a survey questionnaire?
To so many people, good research, or any research means a survey-based research.
One huge limitation here is one assumes one knows everything about the research topic, makes it in the form of a construction of reality, knows how different parts of it related to each other, to ultimately work together as a cause-and-effect mechanism.
Well, does it *always* work that way?
Reality has so many different forms, that we may never be able to not only fully understand it, but also know accurately, how much of error we are about to make in out judgment! So, the p value of regression, and all, is not of much help to topics such as mine.
A narrative inquiry is a study of lived experiences. it studies people’s lived experiences, starting with one’s own. A lived experience is a storied phenomenon that may be told, written, photo or video graphed, observed or collected from a combination of such sources. One is free to analyse, criticise and retell such stories, including myths.
Four ‘switch points’ are interesting when one moves from quantitative approach towards research to Narrative Inquiry:
- The relation between the researcher and the researched
- Turning away from numbers to words as data
- From generalized, universal truth to local and specific reality
- Widened acceptance of alternative ways of knowledge
How Dewey (1981, p. 175) puts it:
“The inquiry is not a search behind the veil of appearances… instead, an inquiry is an act within a stream of experience that generates new relations that then become a part of future experience.”
Thus, the first point above. A narrative inquirer is not separate, aloof and carefully detached from the people she collects data from. In fact, they relate to each other. The new relationship spans time, spaces and social structures.
The analysis of narrative may be within and between narratives. It aims at common themes, metaphors, plotlines and such in order to identify general themes and concepts.
It is a descriptive research: it does not claim to represent the ‘exact’ truth, but instead, aims for ‘verisimilitude’ – that the narrative appears realistic enough, that is significant. And somehow, knowing and sharing it makes things less overwhelming and less oppressive (Dewey, 1981).
The approach, again, is not to cut down reality into pieces, but rather holistic – the one that is prepared to confront the complexity as well as subtlety of lived experiences, and is fascinated by it.
Read more if interested: