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Narrative inquiry

The meaning of «narrative inquiry»

Narrative inquiry or narrative analysis emerged as a discipline from within the broader field of qualitative research in the early 20th century.[1] Narrative inquiry uses field texts, such as stories, autobiography, journals, field notes, letters, conversations, interviews, family stories, photos (and other artifacts), and life experience, as the units of analysis to research and understand the way people create meaning in their lives as narratives.[2]

Narrative inquiry has been employed as a tool for analysis in the fields of cognitive science, organizational studies, knowledge theory, sociology, occupational science and education studies, among others. Other approaches include the development of quantitative methods and tools based on the large volume capture of fragmented anecdotal material, and that which is self signified or indexed at the point of capture.[3] Narrative Inquiry challenges the philosophy behind quantitative/grounded data-gathering and questions the idea of “objective” data, however, it has been criticized for not being “theoretical enough."[4][5]

Narrative inquiry is a form of qualitative research, that emerged in the field of management science and later also developed in the field of knowledge management, which shares the sphere of Information Management.[6] Thus Narrative Inquiry focuses on the organization of human knowledge more than merely the collection and processing of data. It also implies that knowledge itself is considered valuable and noteworthy even when known by only one person.

Knowledge management was coined as a discipline in the early 1980s as a method of identifying, representing, sharing, and communicating knowledge.[7] Knowledge management and Narrative Inquiry share the idea of Knowledge transfer, a theory which seeks to transfer unquantifiable elements of knowledge, including experience. Knowledge, if not communicated, becomes arguably useless, literally unused.

Philosopher Andy Clark speculates that the ways in which minds deal with narrative (second-hand information) and memory (first-hand perception) are cognitively indistinguishable. Narrative, then, becomes an effective and powerful method of transferring knowledge.

Narrative is a powerful tool in the transfer, or sharing, of knowledge, one that is bound to cognitive issues of memory, constructed memory, and perceived memory. Jerome Bruner discusses this issue in his 1990 book, Acts of Meaning, where he considers the narrative form as a non-neutral rhetorical account that aims at “illocutionary intentions,” or the desire to communicate meaning.[8] This technique might be called “narrative” or defined as a particular branch of storytelling within the narrative method. Bruner's approach places the narrative in time, to “assume an experience of time” rather than just making reference to historical time.[9]

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