Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)

Saturday, January 19, 2008: 10:00 AM-11:45 AM
Blue Room (Omni Shoreham)
[Pov/C] Narrative Means for Social Work Ends
Speakers/Presenters:Kathleen Wells, PhD, Case Western Reserve University
Jane F. Gilgun, PhD, LICSW, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
Karen Staller, PhD, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
Abstract Text:
Over the past twenty years, there has been an explosion of interest in qualitative research and qualitative methods of analysis, in particular. Methods such as phenomenological analysis, grounded theory analysis, and content analysis have been widely taught and used in research across the disciplines and the helping professions. A less well-known method than the ones just cited, but one that is critical to the advancement of social work practice and policy, is narrative analysis. Narrative analysis, a family of related methods, is broadly directed to understanding the content, structure, and function of “story”, variously defined. Contrary to popular assumptions, analysts do not assume that story speaks for itself, but rather they examine how a story is constructed, for whom, for what purpose, and upon what cultural and historical resources it draws (Riessman & Quinney, 2005). In this workshop, three experienced qualitative researchers will examine, illustrate, and debate the relative merits of three recently-developed methods of narrative analysis.

During the first half of the workshop, each panelist will delineate one of the following three methods: a structuralist approach through which the structure of a story can be identified; a biographic-interpretive approach, used in cross-national investigations in Europe, through which the implicit rules underlying a biographical story can be identified; or a critical discourse analytic approach through which narratives of domination and of resistance can be identified. Relying on prepared statements, each panelist will define the method and describe its disciplinary roots, underlying assumptions, and central assessment criteria.The ways in which the method could be used to advance social work practice and social welfare policy, the conference theme, will also be elaborated. Written information summarizing the presentations, including a list of central references, will be provided.

The second half of the workshop will be devoted to an illustration of how one narrative, a narrative drawn from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writer's Project from the 1930s, could be analyzed with each of the three methods under discussion. Workshop participants will divide into three groups, with each group focusing on a different method. Under the guidance of a panelist, workshop participants will work together to analyze the narrative with one of the methods noted above. Then, the panelists, interacting with each other and with the workshop participants, will discuss and debate the relative merits of each method. A list of training opportunities in the U. S. and the U. K. for each method will be provided.

There are limited opportunities within academic social work to obtain advanced training in narrative analytic methods and this workshop will help to fill this gap.

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See more of Research That Matters (January 17 - 20, 2008)