methods@manchester: research methods in the social sciences

Narrative Analysis

Narrative research refers to any study that analyses narrative materials, which can range from ‘naturally occurring’ narratives to oral life stories collected for research purposes to written narratives found in the private, public or political realms. One of the main stated reasons for why so many social scientists are interested in studying narratives is because narrative is a basic human way of making sense of the world. Narrative analysis mainly focuses on written or oral texts, but can also be used to analyse photographs, films or even dance performances. Because narrative analysis is inherently interdisciplinary, the field is relatively disparate and there is no one single method of analysis that narrative researchers use.

The current popularity of narrative analysis is largely due to the ‘narrative’ or ‘linguistic’ turn in the social sciences. This has brought about a renewed interest in the role that language plays in social interaction and society: language is not neutral but rather is a means to accomplish social ends and is thus implicated in structures of power. Such an interpretive approach does not seek to analyse narratives in order to access underlying events but rather focuses on meaning making. Much of narrative analysis is based on the notion that how experiences are reconstructed and interpreted is important in itself.

Introductory video:

Key sources

Andrews, Molly, Squire, Corinne and Tamboukou, Maria (eds) (2008) Doing Narrative Research, London: Sage.

Lieblich, Amia, Tuval-Maschiach, Rivka and Zilber, Tamara (1998) Narrative Research: Reading, Analysis and Interpretation, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Riessman, Catherine Kohler (2008) Narrative Methods for the Human Sciences, Los Angeles, CA: Sage.


Studies in narrative, a publication series by John Benjamins, edited by Michael Bamberg

Papers published by Catherine Kohler Riessman

Journal Narrative Inquiry

Online resources

Centre for Narrative Research, University of East London

Narrative research @ Anglia Ruskin University containing support materials for narrative analysis

A web resource for narrative psychology

Methods Fair 2012 video

Recordings of What is...? talks

Talk 2 on 26 April 2012


Talk 1 on 4 March 2010