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Crafting meaningful stories to bring research methods to life

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Stories engage readers. We can use stories to show how the ideas or strategies we are discussing might play out in a particular social, cultural, or organizational context. I often write about research methods, and find that stories can help readers see how the pieces of a research design fit together. Stories can be presented in a fully-developed research case, or as an engaging example inserted within an article or book chapter. For my first research book, Online Interviews in Real Time, I thought it was important to include stories. Online methods were new and few robust descriptions were available that showed how they actually worked. I found six researchers who were doing interesting online research, and interviewed them. I crafted a section for each chapter called “Researchers’ Notebook: Stories of Online Inquiry.” Readers could see how each of these researchers handled ethical dilemmas or sampling. The companion website linked to additional materials from the researchers’ work. Several books later, I am getting ready to write a new edition for Doing Qualitative Research Online and again want to include stories in a “Researchers’ Notebook.” I know that more researchers are incorporating stories, so I wondered whether their lessons learned might help me prepare to move forward. In this post I will share a few tips and examples I discovered in three open access articles. In a future post I will look at digital and visual storytelling and how I can use these approaches in ancillary materials.

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