The potential of narrative analysis for HPE research: Highlighting five analytic lenses

Abigail Konopasky*, Lara Varpio, Renée E. Stalmeijer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Context: Health professions education (HPE) has increasingly turned to qualitative methodology to address a number of the field's difficult research problems. While several different methodologies have been widely accepted and used in HPE research (e.g., Grounded Theory), others remain largely unknown. In this methodology paper, we discuss the value of narrative analysis (NA) as a set of analytic approaches that offer several lenses that can support HPE scholars' research. Methods: After briefly discussing the ‘narrative turn’ in research, we highlight five NA lenses: holistic, situated, linguistic, agentive and sequential. We explore what each lens can offer HPE scholars—highlighting certain aspects of the data—and how each lens is limited—obscuring other aspects. To support these observations, we offer an example of each lens from contemporary HPE scholarship. The manuscript also describes methods that can be employed in NA research and offers two different typologies of NA methods that can be used to access these lenses. Conclusions: We conclude with a discussion of how different analytic methods can be used to harness each of the lenses. We urge the deliberate selection and use of NA methods and point to the inherent partiality of any NA approach. Reflecting on our position as narrative scholars, we acknowledge how our own lenses illuminate some areas and conceal others as we tell the story of NA. In conclusion, we invite other researchers to benefit from the potential NA promises.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1375
Number of pages7
JournalMedical Education
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes


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