Narrative inquiry and the problem of representation: 'Giving voice’, making meaning

Gillian Byrne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Citations (Scopus)


In this article, the author argues that the exploration of alternative forms of research representation can result in new possibilities for making meaning in educational research. Narrative inquiry as a methodology has become established as an approach in education but remains contested in many ways. How we come to an understanding of such research findings and in particular how the issues of voice and representation are resolved are subject to much debate. Here, the author proposes that using fictive methods of representation of research, particularly poetry, can have implications for the ways in which meaning is made and therefore the possible meanings that can be made. Further, this article argues that the poetic form allows for the inclusion of many voices and stories in a non-hierarchical manner, making the author's influence explicit without it being dominant. Researchers have argued for poetic representations of research data as a means to evoke the participants' experience whilst making the author's influence explicit; here, it is argued that poetry can be utilized to provide a fuller representation of the research, placing the voice of the participants, the researcher and the literature on an equal level within the whole story of the research project. This article first details narrative inquiry as a methodological approach and its particular application to educational research before discussing the issues surrounding voice and representation. Subsequently, fictive forms of representation are explored as a means of addressing these issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)36-52
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Research and Method in Education
Issue number1
Early online date16 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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