Narrative inquiry in psychology: Exploring the tensions within

  • Smith B
  • Sparkes A
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In recent years, qualitative researchers in psychology have become increasingly interested in narrative inquiry. With a view to stimulating dialogue, in this article, we seek to make better sense of this field by exploring a range of theoretical tensions and differences embedded within it. Organized around three overall themes, eight contrasting perspectives are presented for discussion. Theme one, termed ‘narrative and the self’, is comprised of tensions surrounding: the relation between narrative and self; the unity of self; and the coherence of self. Theme two, ‘ontology or nature of narrative’, covers: (neo)realism/relativism; interiority or externality; and constructionism. The final theme, labelled ‘approaches to narrative research’, consists of tensions entailing: the whats and/or the hows, and an analysis of narrative and storytelling. We close by suggesting that each contrasting perspective is worthy of consideration in its own right and that co-existence is possible despite some differences.

Author-supplied keywords

  • (neo)realism
  • Contrasting perspectives
  • Dialogue
  • Identities
  • Narrative
  • Relativism
  • Selves
  • Theoretical underpinnings

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  • Brett Smith

  • Andrew C. Sparkes

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