Narrative and
Case Study
Representing Diverse
Narrative Approaches are
based on several assumptions:
• Individuals organize their experiences and
their interactions with individuals, groups,
and culture into narratives or stories.
• Narratives depends on the individual’s
past and present experiences, values, the
audience, and where the narrative is told.
• Narratives can be presented in multiple
voices or perspectives.
• Narratives tell us how people assign
meaning to their experiences.
• This process is similar to story-telling.
In narrative,
• A person’s experiences and his/her
narrative changes over time and as the
person develops.
• Narratives also change as people interact
with different individuals and groups and
as the surrounding culture and
political/social/environment changes.
• In addition to being personal stories, the
stories also reflect the cultural experiences
and social context – so consequently may
represent members of specific cultural or
demographic groups. (i.e. multiple
Narrative Research is:
• Conducted through dialogue between
the researcher and the participant.
• Data can include field notes,
journals, interview, observation,
documentation of story-telling,
letters, videos, audio-recordings,
songs, photographs and other
According to Denzin (1989):
Narratives are fictional statements
that, to a varying degree, are about
real lived lives (as cited in Moen,
What to look for in
• Patterns or themes in the individual’s
• The importance of cultural symbols
and meaning attached to those
• The way in which the subject looks at
him/herself and others.
• The importance of the cultural and
social context and how that context
changes over time and how these
changes affect the individual.
Thoroughly Post-modern Mary
(narrative example)
Questions of trustworthiness
(has subject told the “truth”)
• Prolonged engagement and persistent observation
enhances the quality and of the narrative.
• Learning the culture and establishing trust often increases
the trustworthiness of the data.
• Triangulation – using multiple data sources.
• Negative case analysis – trying to disconfirm the data
already collected.
• Member checking – asking participant if interpretation is
accurate and making adjustments in the data and
interpretation if necessary.
• Thick description (use details that include information on
setting; context; researcher’s reactions)
Use in Social Work
• Narrative therapy (participant describes his/her own story
to therapist). Therapist identifies common patterns or
themes. Helps respondent develop strategies for changing
behaviors that reoccur or that cause problems for the
• Development of cultural understanding or knowledge about
demographic groups that the practitioner is likely to work
with. Understanding of historical events or situations that
have affected groups of people. Provide information about
social/cultural context, coping strategies, and behaviors.
Programs, policies, and service needs are identified. (For
example, interviews with Katrina survivors).
Case Studies
• Used to understand specific
organizations, groups or
• Used to understand the process of
implementing an intervention or the
effect of an intervention on an
individual, group, organization,
community, etc.
• Used to understand a specific
situation and/or practice method
used in that situation.
In social work, case studies are
• By outside investigators interested in the
subject, setting, or situation.
• By researchers who have been involved in
working with community groups or
organizations to set up a program or
• By people who conduct systematic
investigations of research or projects that
they have participated in themselves.
• A practitioner who describes how an
intervention with an individual client was
implemented and the results.
Case studies are:
• Not equivalent (in terms of external and internal
validity; scientific proof) of hypothesis testing of
• They do allow for examination of the context in
which interventions take place and help us
understand why an intervention does or not
• They help us understand how the worker applies
“tacit” or experiential knowledge to a practice
• They may provide clues as to the types of
interventions that work in certain situations.
• They are sometimes used to provide/disseminate
knowledge to other practitioners.
Data Collection includes:
• Extensive observations
• Multiple interviews with a variety of
different participants and conducted
from multiple viewpoints.
• Document analysis (reports, case
records, videos, photos, etc.
Trustworthiness is established
• Systematic application of data collection
• Peer or supervisory review.
• Prolonged engagement.
• Triangulation.
• Member checking.
• Stating biases or “degree of participation”
of the researcher “up front.”
• Thick description (use details that include
information on setting; context;
researcher’s reactions)
Essentially, case studies
• Tell the story of a situation or intervention
from the outside researcher’s point of view
using multiple methods and perspectives.
• Tell the story of the person or group
experiencing the situation or implementing
the intervention.