The ‘Retelling’ of Stories Through Sense-Making of Data

  • Alice BrownEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Education Research Methods book series (PSERM)


Making sense of qualitative data can sometimes be overwhelming, as there is great complexity in understanding and gaining insights into a phenomenon, and the shared stories of others. Yet, if researching with young families is about the ‘retelling’ of these stories, as much as it is about dialogical processes of engagement, and the collecting of narratives, then we need to seek out and embrace methods of analysis that are well-respected, innovative, and efficient. This process requires a fine balancing of agendas and goals associated with inquiry, whilst also balancing efforts to be authentic, and to honour the intent, perspectives, and artefacts shared by others.

This chapter addresses the role of the storyteller. ‘Stories’ being loosely referred to as the narratives and other forms of data that help to create a picture of the lived experiences and environments of participants. Discussion is directed towards factors that will impact on researcher decision-making regarding the analysis, and ‘retelling’ of participant stories. This includes the influence of paradigms adopted by the researcher, as well as of the positionality of participants. Attention is then directed to the importance of considering what stories to tell and to privilege, and the factors that underpin these decisions.

Appreciating that data encompass a range of forms and serve multiple purposes, a series of questions guide the reader through a range of frameworks and processes that support analysis. Each analytic approach is effective in its own right in helping to make sense of data, with each tool, or analytical method, supporting us in privileging the stories of others. The chapter concludes by circling back to participant stories, and considering our role through the lens of being ‘custodians of the story’. Readers are invited to consider what this role might look like, and include how might our role as custodians reflect the decolonising nature of our research sites, such as the domestic spaces of young families and where they move and live, and how might our role as custodians of ‘the story’ reflect humanising components and responsibilities.


  1. Arao, B., & Clemens, K. (2013). From safe spaces to brave spaces: A new way to frame dialogue around diversity and social justice. In L. Landreman (Ed.), The art of effective facilitation: Reflections from social justice educators (pp. 135–150). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.Google Scholar
  2. Baird, K. (2013). Exploring a methodology with young children: Reflections on using the Mosaic and Ecocultural approaches. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 38(1), 35–40.Google Scholar
  3. Bamberg, M. (2012). Narrative analysis. In H. Cooper (Ed.), APA handbook of research methods in psychology (Vol. 2). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.Google Scholar
  4. Bamberg, M., & Georgakopoulou, A. (2008). Small stories as a new perspective in narrative and identity analysis. Text & Talk, 28(3), 377–396.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berg, B. (2016). Qualitative research methods for the social sciences (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson.Google Scholar
  6. Bergold, J., & Thomas, S. (2012). Participatory research methods: A methodological approach in motion. Historical Social Research/Historische Sozialforschung, 13(1), 191–222.Google Scholar
  7. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2013). Successful qualitative research: A practical guide for beginners. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, A. (2012). The new frontier: A social ecological exploration of factors impacting on parental support for the active play of young children within the micro-environment of the family home. PhD, University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba, QLD.Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, K., Hesketh, K., Crawford, D., Salmon, J., Ball, K., & McCallum, Z. (2008). The infant feeding activity and nutrition trial (INFANT) an early intervention to prevent childhood obesity: Cluster-randomised controlled trial. Bio Med Central, 8(103), 1–9.Google Scholar
  11. Clandinin, J. (2007). Handbook of narrative inquiry: Mapping a methodology. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Clandinin, J., Huber, J., Menan, J., Murphy, M., & Swanson, C. (2016). Narrative inquiry: Conducting research in early childhood. In A. Farrell, S. Kagan, & E. Tisdall (Eds.), The Sage handbook of early childhood research (pp. 240–254). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2001). Listening to young children: The Mosaic approach. London: National Children’s Bureau for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  14. Clark, A., & Moss, P. (2011). Listening to young children: The Mosaic approach (2). London: National Children’s Bureau and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.Google Scholar
  15. Creswell, J. (2013). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five approaches (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  16. Daly, K. J. (2007a). Analytical strategies. In K. J. Daly (Ed.), Qualitative methods for family studies and human development (pp. 209–242). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Daly, K. J. (2007b). Qualitative methods for family studies and human development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  18. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, N. (Eds.). (2011). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  19. Denzin, N., & Lincoln, N. (2017). The Sage handbook of qualitative research (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  20. Denzin, N. K., Lincoln, Y. S., & Smith, L. T. (Eds.). (2008). Handbook of critical and indigenous methodologies. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  21. Dey, I. (1993). Qualitative data analysis: A user-friendly guide for social scientists. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Dockett, S., Perry, B., Kearney, E., Hamshire, A., Mason, J., & Schmied, V. (2009). Researching with families: Ethical issues and situations. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 10(4), 353–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Eisner, W. (1998). The enlightened eye: Qualitative inquiry and the enhancement of educational practice. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.Google Scholar
  24. Elliott, R., & Timula, L. (2008). Descriptive and interpretive approaches to qualitative research. In J. Miles & P. Gilbert (Eds.), A handbook of research methods for clinical and health psychology (pp. 147–159). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Elsbach, K. D., & Kramer, R. M. (2016). Handbook of qualitative organizational research: Innovative pathways and methods. New York: Routledge.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Fiese, B. (2013). Family context in early childhood. In O. Saracho & B. Spodek (Eds.), Handbook of research on the education of young children (3rd ed., pp. 369–384). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  27. Fivush, R., & Merrill, N. (2016). An ecological systems approach to family narratives. Memory Studies, 9(3), 305–314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Flyvbjerg, B. (2006). Five misunderstandings about case-study research. Qualitative Inquiry, 12(2), 219–245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Fraser, H. (2004). Doing narrative research analysing personal stories line by line. Qualitative Social Work, 3(2), 179–201.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gabb, J. (2010). Home truths: Ethical issues in family research. Qualitative Research, 10(4), 461–478.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gale, N. K., Heath, G., Cameron, E., Rashid, S., & Redwood, S. (2013). Using the framework method for the analysis of qualitative data in multi-disciplinary health research. BMC Medical Research Methodology, 13(1), 117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Gersick, C. (2016). Adventures in qualitative research. In K. D. Elsbach & R. M. Kramer (Eds.), Handbook of qualitative organizational research: Innovative pathways and methods (pp. 311–317). New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Grbich, C. (2004). New approaches in social research. London: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Grbich, C. (2007). Qualitative data analysis: An Introduction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  35. Gubrium, J., Holstein, J., Marvasti, A., & McKinney, K. (2012). The Sage handbook of interview research: The complexity of craft. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Guest, G., MacQueen, K. M., & Namey, E. E. (2011). Applied thematic analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  37. Hampton, R., & Toombs, M. (2013). Culture, identity and Indigenous Australian people. In R. Hampton & M. Toombs (Eds.), Indigenous Australians and health: The wombat in the room (pp. 3–23). South Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Harcourt, D., & Einarsdóttir, J. (2011). Introducing children’s perspectives and participation in research. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 19(3), 301–307.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Harden, J., Backett-Milburn, K., Hill, M., & MacLean, A. (2010). Oh, what a tangled web we weave: Experiences of doing ‘multiple perspectives’ research in families. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 13(5), 441–452.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  41. Hyvärinen, M. (2008). Analyzing narratives and story-telling. In P. Alasuutari, L. Bickman, & J. Brannen (Eds.), The Sage handbook of social research methods (pp. 447–460). Los Angeles: Sage.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kim, J. (2016). Understanding narrative inquiry: The crafting and analysis of stories as research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. King, N., & Horrocks, C. (2010). Interviews in qualitative research (1st ed.). Los Angeles: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Kiser, L. J., Baumgardner, B., & Dorado, J. (2010). Who are we, but for the stories we tell: Family stories and healing. Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, 2(3), 243–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Mannion, G. (2007). Going spatial, going relationational: Why “listening to children” and children’s participation needs reframing. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 28(3), 405–420.Google Scholar
  46. Mason, J. (2018). Qualitative researching (3rd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. Matua, G., & Van Der Wal, D. (2015). Differentiating between descriptive and interpretive phenomenological research approaches. Nurse Researcher, 22(6), 22–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Merriam, S., & Tisdall, E. (2016). Qualitative research: A guide to design and implementation (4th ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  49. Miles, M., Chapman, Y., & Francis, K. (2015). Peeling the onion: Understanding others’ lived experience. Contemporary Nurse, 50(2–3), 286–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Miles, M., Huberman, M., & Saldana, J. (2014). Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  51. Mills, A., Durepos, G., & Wiebe, E. (Eds.). (2010). Encyclopedia of case study research. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  52. O’Connor, J., & Brown, A. (2013). A qualitative study of ‘fear’ as a regulator of children’s independent physical activity in the suburbs. Health & Place, 24, 157–164. Retrieved from
  53. Sandelowski, M. (1991). Telling stories: Narrative approaches in qualitative research. Journal of nursing scholarship, 23(3), 161–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Snilstveit, B., Oliver, S., & Vojtkova, M. (2012). Narrative approaches to systematic review and synthesis of evidence for international development policy and practice. Journal of Development Effectiveness, 4(3), 409–429.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Spurrier, N., Magarey, A., Golley, R., Curnow, F., & Sawyer, M. (2008). Relationships between the home environment and physical activity and dietary patterns of preschool children: A cross-sectional study. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, 5(31), 1–12.Google Scholar
  56. Stake, R. (2003). Case studies. In N. Denzin & Y. Lincoln (Eds.), Strategies of qualitative inquiry (pp. 134–164). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  57. Stake, R. (2010). Qualitative research: Studying how things work. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  58. Stake, R. (2013). Multiple case study analysis. New York: Guilford Press.Google Scholar
  59. Stokols, D., Grzywacz, J., McMahan, S., & Phillips, K. (2003). Increasing the health promotive capacity of human environments. American Journal of Health Promotion, 18(1), 4–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Sutton, J., & Austin, Z. (2015). Qualitative research: Data collection, analysis, and management. The Canadian Journal of Hospital Pharmacy, 68(3), 226–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Tisdall, K., Davis, J. M., & Gallagher, M. (2008). Researching with children and young people: Research design, methods and analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  62. Walter, M. (Ed.). (2013). Social research methods (3rd ed.). Melbourne, VIC: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  63. Warr, D. (2004). Stories in the flesh and voices in the head: Reflections on the context and impact of research with disadvantaged populations. Qualitative Health Research, 14(4), 578–587.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Willis, P. (2000). The ethnographic imagination. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Business, Education, Law and ArtsUniversity of Southern QueenslandSpringfield CentralAustralia

Personalised recommendations