Authors: Natasha Shukla, Institute of Education and Emma Wilson, Oxford University

Day One – Tuesday 25th June

Strand – Innovations in Research Methods

Session Three: 4.30pm – 6pm

The paper reflects on the value of combining thematic and narrative approaches, drawing on a secondary analysis of longitudinal data from qualitative interviews with families in Andhra Pradesh, collected as part of the Young Lives international study of childhood poverty. This analysis was conducted to inform the methodological aims of the Family Lives and Environment (FLE) project, one of three sub-projects within the ESRC NCRM Node, Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches (NOVELLA).  The paper therefore makes a contribution towards consolidating methodological advancements and is located in the nexus of three trends in social science research towards mixed methods, secondary analysis and cross-national research.

Thematic analysis has been referred to as a “foundational method” for qualitative analysis (Braun and Clarke, 2006) while narrative occupies the status of a relatively new ‘turn’ in the social sciences (Squire et al, 2008). While some researchers view the difference between these two approaches to be merely one of breadth versus depth others point to important analytical differences while also demonstrating how they can be successfully combined (Riessman, 2008).

Secondary analysis carried out focused on a subsample of eight family cases (each comprising six interviews – an interview with a parent/caregiver and a young person in each of three rounds of data collection).  Separate case-based analysis was carried out by two researchers: one, part of the Young Lives team, was familiar with the wider qualitative dataset, used thematic content analysis; the other, was part of the Family Lives and Environment team and thus with a more limited knowledge of the wider dataset, used a wholly narrative approach.  Both analyses shared a focus on families’ experiences and understandings of their physical environment.

In this paper, we reflect on learning from this analytic process, focusing on the theme of spatial mobility to consider what a narrative approach can offer through attention to identity construction, temporality and co-construction of narratives. We reflect on the complementarities between thematic and narrative approaches to argue that the combination of these two approaches is particularly fruitful when applied to analysis of secondary data and data collected in unfamiliar cultural contexts.

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