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Research Design

Narrative Inquiry

Engel’s article on narrative analysis of children experiences describes the importance and process of children’s narrative inquiry. Narrative inquiry is a method of understanding and inquiring into experiences through the process of collaboration between researcher and participants. It is the form in which people create, represent and share their experiences. When studying children’s narratives, researchers explore the child’s insight of their experiences in the world. These narratives pave the way to understanding how children construct knowledge, solve problems, learn information, memorize and how they strategize their experiences. Ultimately revealing how children are social agents. The interest to study narratives developed out of the models focused on processing and artificial intelligence. Schank and Abelson’s theories focused on the way that children might organize knowledge of their daily lives. While Nelson’s theory was based on how the form of knowledge in children’s minds recorded on the form of events. According to Nelson’s research children’s memories grew out of a more general script than they have formed events. Both teams concluded that the way children think is different from adults. It is important to study narratives because the stories children tell are an interpersonal process which children use to make sense of the world. Researchers learn a great deal about children develop these stories and how these stories work as a function of development.

Children’s usage of narrative begins at an early age and changes as they mature. The context of the narrative are shaped by the purpose of the story and the age of the storyteller. Engel writes that children use storytelling to, “…solve emotional and cognitive puzzles, to establish and maintain friendships; to construct and communicate a sense of self; to recast events in way that are satisfying; and to participate in culture” (p 206). A child’s story should be understood through the terms of how it was created. Narrative analysis should apply two levels of analysis. The first includes that of the text itself and the other to the process of how the context was created. When studying narratives we must keep in mind that the stories reflect the thoughts of the teller, but the teller isn’t always aware of their interpretations. As researchers we can focus on different aspects of narratives. Which can include the structural components, how these narrative skills are learned and the content of the narratives. The method that the research decides to use will determine how they analyze and apply the information.

While conducting narrative research, researchers have to do a lot of fieldwork, recording stories as children tell them naturally and most importantly adjust the questions asked to children to ensure a more authentic answer. Narratives can be analyzed through several levels. These include content, form, underlying meanings, perlocutionary effect, intra- and interpersonal function, aesthetic devices, and lastly movement across categories.

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