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Narrative methods in qualitative and quantitative research 22 nd February 2006 Combining social research methods, data and analyses Jane Elliott Centre for Longitudinal Studies Institute of Education
Main themes of workshop session Interest in exploring narrative elements of both qualitative and quantitative research Utility of the notion of narrative identity (Ezzy, Ricoeur) Introduction to the British Birth Cohort Studies and in particular the National Child Development Study Analysis of qualitative essays written by eleven year olds in 1969
What is a narrative? A story with a beginning, a middle and an end! Aristotles Poetics A method of recapitulating past experiences by matching a verbal sequence of clauses to the sequence of events that actually occurred. (Labov and Waletzky, 1967) (A) discourse with a clear sequential order that connects events in a meaningful way for a definite audience, and thus offers insights about the world and/or peoples experiences of it. Hinchman and Hinchman (1997: xvi)
Labov and Waletzkys structural model Abstract Orientation Complicating action Evaluation Resolution Coda
Why should social scientists be interested in narrative? Temporal representation of events and experiences Structure used to communicate the meaning of events and experiences Inherently social requires an audience narrative forms (genres) are shaped by social context Implicated in the creation and maintenance of identity
Narrative identity Narrative provides a practical means by which the individual can understand themselves as living through time, a human subject with a past, present, and future made whole by a narrative plot with a beginning, middle and end. Allows conceptualisation of individual as having a continuous presence through time without becoming fixed or essentialized Identity as idem or ipse (identical or selfsame soi-meme) – permanence through time without sameness through time (Ricoeur).
Narrative and identity Ontological narratives are shaped by the social world in two important ways: available audiences for our narratives cultural repertoire of narratives/genres It is also important to remember that individuals are active agents who play a part in reproducing but also modifying public narratives.
Narrative, Reflexivity and Writing During the last 20 years growing interest in the topic of narrative among qualitative researchers Elliot Mishler (1986) Research Interviewing: context and narrative C.K. Riessman (1993) Narrative Analysis. Narrative and Life History Journal launched 1991 The Narrative Study of Lives Josselson and Lieblich Attention to narratives in qualitative interviews; awareness of importance of researcher in eliciting narratives; interest in concept of narrative identity; awareness that researcher is a narrator
British Birth Cohort Studies Fully representative samples of the British population Based on one weeks births - approximately 17,000 babies Followed up from birth into adulthood Four British Birth Cohort Studies 1946 : National Survey of Health and Development (MRC funded) 1958 : National Child Development Study 1970 : British Cohort Study /1: Millennium Cohort Study Housed at CLS
Birth Cohort Study Representative sample of over 17,000 infants born in March 1958 (Perinatal Mortality Study) Sample followed at ages 7, 11, 16, 23, 33, 42, 46 (prospective study) Multipurpose study: family life; education; employment; skills; housing; health; finances; citizenship Focused bio-medical study at age 44 (MRC funded) Approximately 12,000 individuals are still participating Now core funded by ESRC with data collected every four years
NCDS follow-ups and sources of information
Hypothetical life history x Born st Child nd Child 1987 Age 7 Age Age Age 46 Age 16 Age Age 33 Gets married Parents social class Parental interest in school work Free school meals Mother smoking Parental divorce Maths and reading tests Teachers assessment of childs behaviour Exam results Job 1Job 2Job 3 Voting behaviour Psychological well being Working hours preferences Savings Domestic division of labour Union membership Training and skills
NCDS – 2004 Sweep (Age 46) Telephone Interview Housing Partnerships – current and former Births and other pregnancies Periods of lone parenthood Absent children Children and the wider family Family income Employment status/employment history Academic education/vocational training/other courses Access to and use of computers Basic skills General health Smoking, drinking and exercise Experience of crime Social participation
NCDS 11-year old Essays At age 11, in 1969 NCDS Cohort members completed a short questionnaire (at school) about leisure interests, preferred school subjects and expectations on leaving school They were also asked to write an essay on the following topic: Imagine you are now 25 years old. Write about the life you are leading, your interests, your home life and your work at the age of 25. (You have 30 minutes to do this) essays completed, mean length 204 words Copies of the original essays (in childrens handwriting) are available on microfiche at CLS
Existing research on the essays A small sample of 521 essays have been coded for word count Boys 180 words Girls 228 words All essays have been coded for employment aspirations, over 90% give a classifiable occupation No systematic coding and analysis of the essays has been carried out to date
Extract 1: When I am 25 I will have a job as a engineer or macanic. I hope to have a house in the country with a nice garden to dig and plant vegetables. I will own a car (zepher) to go on journeys around England or in paris. I hope to have a wife and children who I respect. I will have a dog colliee or a house dog both tame. On weekends I will take my family out for a ride or once a month visit my parents. At age 11: General ability (47/80 – a little above average); Lives in a council house with natural parents; father is in a skilled manual occupation At age 40: Married with children; lives in a three-bedroomed owner- occupied house, very satisfied with accommodation; parents have both died; works as a foreman pattern maker.
Extract 2: I am an Air-Hostest. I look after poeple I speck two langweges, and I meat lots of poeple. Some are old, and some are young. The money is good. When I am not on the plane I show people arond. Some people can not speck English, sowe I speck to them in their own langwege. At the airport there is a room were you can powder your nose hear and there. We have a speica suit that we must wear. Before we go on our first trip we have to lerne how to walk nicely, and how to wear our make up. We all ways have to smail. At age 40: married with children, living in three-bedroomed owner occupied house; fairly satisfied with accommodation; looking after home and family, husband is customs and excise officer/immigration officer. At age 11 General ability (44/80 –average); missing data about parents and tenure of accommodation
Research project funded by the Nuffield foundation (Elliott and Morrow) Project is intended as a pilot study, possibly to be followed up by larger application to ESRC Aim to type up and code a sub-sample of 560 essays & conduct preliminary descriptive analyses Sample stratified to reflect: gender; ability; social class; family structure Essays will be coded for themes such as: family life; leisure; employment; housing expectations; contact with parents; pets; transport and travel; aspirations vs expectations Both qualitative and quantitative analysis will be carried out using NVIVO and SPSS to help organize, code, and analyze the data Main research questions: how do gender and social class shape childrens aspirations?
Analysis of essays: possible questions to address What are our initial impressions e.g. is the child optimistic/pessimistic; positive/negative? To what extent is each essay a narrative or a description? What elements of narrative does each essay include? What is there in the essay that is surprising (& why)? What is in the essay that doesnt surprise us (& why)? Is there anything in the essay that is assumed but not explicitly stated What is the role of time/ how is time used in the essay? What markers of gender and social class are there in the essay? How explicit is the age of the child and the historical context within the essay? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having over 13,000 qualitative essays that could potentially be analysed?