Narrative Inquiry… part of the bricolage or possible approach?

This weekend I have been thinking about narrative inquiry as I have been trying to write up my fairly enormous plan for my research design (transfer) chapter of my thesis. Despite all of the sources I have consulted on narrative work (this seemed an obvious direction in 2008-2009 as I was interested in men’s stories of their own experiences) Bell (2005), though not claiming to be authoritative on narrative work such as Elliott (2005), turns out to be something I went back to. this useful but admittedly basic text managed to capture something clear and concise that I find extremely appealing whilst writing my justification of a hermeneutic bricolaged project.

Bell is pro-narrative inquiry and several of her observations appear to chime with what I am trying to achieve but there are several considerations which relegate narrative analysis to just one of the possible areas I can draw on within the overall bricolage, rather than the key methodology of the entire project:

Response to reading Bell (2005: 21-24):

  1. Supporting my findings from other readings, the stories which are drawn on are actually the storying which takes place is not a person in private with their thoughts and a pen or keyboard but are the transcripts of interviews.
  2. The end focus is still ostensibly the features and patterns of stories as the outcome not the phenomenon itself.
  3. Perception of what I am trying to achieve may be skewed as soon as I begin to identify with a narrative inquiry stance . An example here would be when a potential participant and I met face-to-face earlier this year who had gotten the strong impression that I wanted to analyse a conversation between us using narrative analysis to form a thick description of stories of disordered eating in men. My reflection was that his was due, at least in part, due to my use of language which evoked narrative analysis in the wording on the research website.

I am not trying to establish patterns and generalise, or find the key features in a plot of ‘illness’ that appear in stories of eating distress   – I am looking at the richness of what’s out there as this has gone uninvestigated up until now. I almost feel that any wholly narrative inquiry designed project is a potential next step on from where I am now, once it has been established how men are making sense of their experiences.


Bell, J. (2005 ) Doing Your Research Project. Maidenhead: Open University Press, 4th edition.

Elliott, J. (2005) Using Narrative in Social Research: Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.