Everyone tells stories about events in their lives and everyone loves a good story. Stories contain events and the social or individual meaning attached to those events. They humanise events by bringing them to the level of individual experience and emotion. Elliott examines the role and use of stories in interview and survey-based social research, as well as the role of researcher as narrator. For example, how individuals’ accounts can be deconstructed to expose the social values that underpin them and how data collected about individuals over a period of time can be used to construct stories in order to make sense of statistical relationships observed. This book provides a useful introduction to longitudinal studies, which collect information about individuals over a period of time, and some of the techniques that can be used to analyse them. In particular, Elliott demonstrates how longitudinal data lends itself to a more person-centred and narrative-based approach to statistical analysis. I recommend this book to post-graduate students starting out in this field of research.
Jane Elliott persuasively promotes the use of the narrative in social research, identifying its key elements and their power in shaping our understandings, interpretations and representations of human lives. She offers practical guidance in narrative research methods, exploring the current methodological, epistemological and theoretical debates basic to their practice. A thought provoking chapter covers the ethical and political implications of narrative research. A section on 'narrative and identity' discusses the post-modern challenge to the traditional conception of a unitary, coherent self. The author takes up the challenge of covering both quantitative and qualitative approaches. She argues that rather than being contradictory 'causal' and 'narrative' ways of understanding the social world may be seen as mutally dependent. She claims "the concept of narrative provides a kind of reflexive bridge between the traditions of quantitative and qualitative methods" that is as we proceed with our research "by recognizing ourselves as narrators of sociological accounts, we are forced to examine our own role in the construction and maintenaces of the social world" (p.187)