How to Write a Narrative Research Study
A narrative study researches a topic using first-hand accounts. Narrative researchers ask questions and look for deeper understandings in life experiences by gathering information from journals, field notes, letters, oral histories, biographies and autobiographies. The information is used to produce a literary form of research -- perhaps placing the reader in the participants' shoes. Narrative research is often used in social science fields such as anthropology, theology, philosophy, history, evolutionary biological science and literary theory.
Once a research topic is picked, begin narrowing your topic or developing a research question that your study intends to investigate. Once a question is formed, the next step is brainstorming the kind of sources of information your study will need and where to find it. For example, if the study is about personal experiences during women’s suffrage, the primary sources of information will come from archived letters, journals and possibly interviews with relatives of women involved in the movement. If your research topic is more recent, first-hand account interviews will be needed.
Begin with an outline of how you see the narration taking place. In a narrative research study, the findings will be presented in a literary form, so outlining the plot and order of events is very helpful to keep your writing focused. For example, a researcher writing about a participant’s experience as a teen mom will need to organize how and when important events take place, how and when to introduce settings, and so forth. A narrative study will also include an introduction, thesis, climax and conclusion.
After conducting research, the researcher will write his own narrative of the study using storytelling elements such as plot, scene, setting and characterization. Two narrative researchers, Connelly and Clandinin, note, "Research is a collaborative document, a mutually constructed story out of the lives of both researcher and participant." For example, a researcher writing a study about social pressures of teenage boys would create a narrative of the entire experience. He may also write a story about a participant that places the reader in the participant's shoes.
Revision is the final step in writing a narrative study. The study should be read aloud and checked for flow of logical events, clarity, mechanics, grammar and structure. Any areas which need further research or development may be spotted and changes made in this phase. The essay should pull the reader into the story and hold the reader's attention throughout. Taking time away from the project for a day or two may be helpful to help spot mistakes.