Born on: September 5, 1999


Title of this web page -->Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research
Copyright 2001 by David M. Boje, Ph.D.
Purpose: a web resource library of qualitative materials, exercises, and study guides to supplement the (2001) book titled Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage Publications. See Amazon to order book and/or read book review.

Intro to Narrative Methods Book is on the web. 

Each module on this web site will tackle a different analysis in Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (hereafter NA). Then we situate that analysis in its philosophy of science context - (press here) for summary table.

Readings Index & Abbreviations Explained (All Modules)

  1. NA Narrative Analysis for Management and Communication Research (book) by Boje (2001) the modules that follow are keyed to the chapters of this book.
  2. HQR: Handbook of Qualitative Research by Denzin & Lincoln (can buy the soft cover books; excellent book for background on methods and qualitative philosophies of science).
  3. ES: Ethnostatistics by Gephart (this book transcends all false dichotomies of qualitative and quantitative).
  4. WC: Writing Culture by Clifford & Marcus (optional good for intermediate).
  5. PO: Participant Observation by Spradley (optional good for beginners).
  6. GC: Greening Culture by Herndl & Brown (optional great for very advanced QM writing).
  7. FG: Focus Group text by Krueger (required for Marketing, optional for others).
Required Background Reading for Introduction Module (bold = required).
NM Boje book - Introduction pp. 1-17.
HQR: Part II: Major paradigms and perspectives. Pp. 99-104.
HQR: Guba & Lincoln. Competing paradigms in QR. Pp. 105-117.

Recommended Supplement Reading

HQR: Vidich & Lyman. QM: Their history in sociology and anthropology. Pp. 23-59.
HQR. Punch. Politics and ethics in QR. Pp. 83-97.
HQR. Schwandt pp. 118-137
PO. Ethnography for what. Pp. 13-25 (ethics).

MODULE 1 Introduction (REQUIRED)  - there is a floating menu on your left that takes you between modules or to the top of this one.

Welcome to Qualitative Research: Narrative Methods

Please let me know if there are ways to improve this site.

The purpose of this site is to teach basic qualitative methods and associated philosophies of science.  I put the site up for others to use who teach QM courses and for my students.

There are basic, intermediate and advanced treatments of each topic in each section along with brief assignments and reading choices (See syllabus).

Note we will pick and choose articles, links, and assignments to do week by week based upon your PROPOSED INDIVIDUALIZED LEARNING CONTRACT (PRESS HERE). No, we will not do all that is listed here. The extra items are for your INDIVIDUALIZED exploration and discovery. Your task is to explore the paradigms and alyses that fit your learning contract - 

To ALL: I think the web can be a place where we share ideas and making learning resources available FREE to everyone. I hope you find the site useful to your research interests. - David Boje, Ph.D.



Step 1 - Get good tools: Please buy a tape recorder (get a plug in microphone for better sound quality) and several notebooks of various sizes (one for field notes, one for field diary, and one for indexing content categories for both; I prefer them to be bound, and not loose leaf ).  Digital recorders are good investment. You can upload recording to your PC. You still have to transcribe because voice recognition software is still too primitive for this work.

I start with the assumption that its all "text."  A text can be utterances collected by tape recorder, your field observation notes, webtext, or it can be an ad on TV, or a painting. All text. Whatever it is the notebooks and tape recorder will help. You will need these tools for your weekly assignments in order to collect "text fragments" for analysis. 

I also recommend some multi-color markers (Mr. Sketch by Sanford is best since they are scented in non-toxic flavors and won't kill you if you inhale; choose colors that are light). By writing margin codes and color coding important text, you can learn what you are doing before trying to jump straight to NUD*IST, N-VIVO or ETHNOGRAPH text analysis software. And to be honest the markers will serve you better for more sensitive, exploratory, and nuanced analysis that the computer software that will get you lost. It is the principle of garbage in, garbage out. The electronic software is no substitute for knowing what you are doing in an analysis.  However, if you have been weaned on SPSS/SAS or SEQ (Structural Equation Modeling), you do get a sense of security from the qualitative analysis software. But, you can also get lost in all that, and forget to do the basic hard work of coding your filed notes, each and every day you are in the field. The problem is quantitative analysis trains you to collect a lot of observations, then do the analysis. Here, you must learn to analyze as you go, or wind up with pure junk and very lost, even if you collect mountains of transcript.  The advice, then is do it by hand first, then automate, but keep doing analysis each and every visit to the field.

Step 2 - Field Notebooks. I want you to learn the discipline of writing field notes each day you do field work (separate books for field notes, diary notes, transcribed interviews [this can be loose leaf], & a notebook for categories index across all your notebooks and transcripts--> This is what it takes to do a rigorous job of field notes). If you do not, as yet, have a regular field site, I will suggest ones where you can train until you do.

That means record your field notes, even if you tape. Do a diary entry even if you have field notes. Use color markers to locate different types of entries. Make lots of margin notes in each note book. Have an index note book, that cross indexes all other notebooks, transcripts etc.  Learn this before even opening a NUD*IST cd package. .

Step 3: How to be a Qualitative Methodologist?  - QM equals 10; it  is two parts note taking, three parts transcriptions, two parts analysis, and one part philosophy of science (but the parts are not equal; that's a joke, humor is allowed). 

To be a QM, you need to explore, investigate, roam, and be nomadic. Give up any thoughts about sending someone else out to do the work. Forget having someone else do the transcription.  The nuances are what count, and you can not delegate that work.  This is not something you can do impersonally to avoid your own bias.  Bias is your locator, your internal detective, but only after you self-reflect and figure out your bias, so you can move ahead of it. This is why you keep a field diary, to record your dreams, your insights, your conjecture, those hypotheses that comes from doing the grounded field work. 

This means doing constant comparisons with what you already collected. Then collecting it from someone else, collecting it in a different setting, at a different time. This is how qualitative sampling works. It is how you insure qualitative forms of reliability and validity.

To check the reliability and validity of your work, ask your informant to advise you.  Treat the informant as the expert on matters of their own ontology and epistemology. Your biggest obstacle in qualitative work is your own ego. When your head is full, you can not learn from anyone else.

Radar - As you do field work, you learn to get redundancy, check it for reliability and validity, then move along to what you do not know, or are unsure about.  It is detective work. It is like having radar, and relying upon pings to locate the terrain, and figure out where to go next.

Step4 - Surf - Web Resources for Qualitative Research

Like Anything on the web, you can get lost. Choose what you think will help you. Limit your reading to a few hours at a time. Do not try to consume the web. That is foolish and impossible. Be selective and intelligent as you roam.

Qualitative Research in Information Systems Section Editor: Michael D. Myers (press here).
Qualitative research methods were developed in the social sciences to enable researchers to study social and cultural phenomena. Examples of qualitative methods are action research, case study research and ethnography. Qualitative data sources include observation and participant observation (fieldwork), interviews and questionnaires, documents and texts, and the researcher's impressions and reactions.
All research (whether quantitative or qualitative) is based on some underlying assumptions about what constitutes 'valid' research and which research methods are appropriate. Myers lists the four philosophies of Guba & Lincoln (1994) - positivism, post positivism, critical theory, and constructivism.

What is Qualitative Research? - Can Sociological Research Be Qualitative, Critical and Valid?  by David Wainwright Article (press here).


Generally, qualitative research can be characterized as the attempt to obtain an in-depth understanding of the meanings and 'definitions of the situation' presented by informants, rather than the production of a quantitative 'measurement' of their characteristics or behavior (Wainwright, 1997)
Qualitative Research Web links (press here). *Choosing Qualitative Research: A Primer for Technology Education Researchers Marie C. Hoepfl Journal of Technology Education, 1997 (press here). Qualitative Research produces lots of "text." A text is composed of "narrative," "quotes" and interpretations. How do you analyze all the text (press here)?
Good overview of challenge of narrative theory and analysis in organization and management studies
 O'Conner, Ellen - "Pluralism in the field: Narrative Studies as an Interdisciplinary Inquiry." (press here). MAY HAVE MOVED.

Narrative Analysis in Management Studies (press here). Other Disciplines (press here).

Narrative Methods Reference Iist (Hosking)

Resources for Qualitative Research (press here). Good way to familiarize yourself with the field.
For applications of Narrative to Transorganizational Development (press here)
Basic stuff on Storytelling (press here).
More Advanced Narrative approaches (press here). See Part III.
David M. Boje, Rossana C. Alvarez and Bruce Schooling (2001). "Reclaiming Story in Organization Narratologies and Action Sciences" Chapter Six in Westwood & Linstead's Language and Organization Book. . Three excerpts are available: (press here) for table of various disciplines of narrative. (press here)) for contrast of single-discipline approaches of Appreciative Inquiry, Restorying, Emery Search Conference, and Hopewell's Congregation. And (press here) for contrasts of several interdisciplinary approaches including Narrating Organization, Storytelling Organization, and Embedded Narrative discussed in this tutorial. How to Become a Paradigm Expert? 

Read - Kuhn, T. S. (1962). The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. You will find many definitions of paradigm there. For us, paradigm = ontology + epistemology + method. 

Step 5 - Take the on-line Ross-Barger philosophy Inventory - philosophy test (Press Here if you want to relate personality type to philosophy choice), then come back to this page when you are done. Which philosophy did you prefer? ___________.

In our beginning, we will start where all the qualitative courses start, we will compare and contrast paradigms, when deep down I know it is the rhizomatics and intertextuality that counts.  

Figure 1 - 3 Paradigm Model of Pondy & Boje 1980

The Three Paradigm Model  ONTOLOGY

What is nature of real?


How an inquirer may know valid human knowledge?


How do we gain knowledge?

SOCIAL FACTIST Assumes groups, classes, roles, norms, and other concepts are material, objective, i.e. social facts Knowing Facts: Assumes groups, classes, roles, norms, and other concepts are measurable elements in some type of causal framework Most often Surveys
SOCIAL BEHAVIORIST Assumes people are passive receivers of stimuli, controlled by contingencies of reinforcement Knowing Behavior: Assumes people are suspended in cause and effect behaviors Lab Studies & more surveys
SOCIAL DEFINITIONIST Assumes that people create their own social reality and socially define and socially construct their situation. Knowing Meaning: Assumes people are suspended in a web of meaning, texts, stories, emic and etic constructs that change over time and place Action Theory, Symbolic Interactionism, Phenomenology, Phenomenological Sociology,  Ethnography, Narrative, Process Observation, Ethnomethodology; 1990s I would add Foucault's historical archaeology, Derrida's deconstruction, and methods focusing upon rhetoric, plus Ethnostatistics

Pondy, L. & Boje, D. M., "Bringing Mind Back In: Paradigm Development as a Frontier Problem in Organizational Theory," pp. 83-101, in Frontiers in Organization & Management, Williams Evan (Ed.), Praeger Publishers: New York, 1980.  

Boje (1996/1997). Bringing Mind Back Into Research Methods: Is Multiple Inquiry Possible? New Mexico State University December, 1996 Revised, December 1997.

Pondy and Boje (1980) applied George Ritzer's Social Definitionist, Social Factist, and Social Behavior paradigms to organizational behavior.  It helped us explained the feudalistic paradigm wars in the OB Ph.D. program between 1974 and 1979. Ritzer's more recent work (1992: 527) says 'Social definitionists, ... , are more likely to use the observation method than those in any other paradigm. In other words, observation is the distinctive methodology of social definitionists.'  For me, this is the observation of people telling stories (narrating). 
Ritzer, George. 1992. Contemporary Sociological Theory, third edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.

In sociology Max Weber's social action theory is a model for the `social definitionist' paradigm. Weber promoted `interpretative understanding' as a tool for researching social action. "Interpretative understanding attempts to describe and explain social behavior from the perspective of the subjective meanings of the actors' intentions for their behavior" (Leming & Dickinson, 1994, p. 61). In organization studies, Karl Weick's social construction and sensemaking theory is the role model. 

Leming, M. R., & Dickinson, G. E. (1994). Understanding dying, death, & bereavement (3rd ed.). Orlando, FL: Harcourt, Brace & Company.

I first met Gareth Morgan at University of Illinois in 1978. He was doing a whirlwind tour of OB Ph.D. programs promoting the Burrell & Morgan four paradigm model.

Burrell & Morgan's Infamous Sociological Paradigms for Organizational Analysis
as applied by Roger Boshier and many others (press for overview). They sort everything into two dimensions: (1) Horizontal, the subjective-objective and (2) Vertical: the sociology of radical change-the sociology of regulation.

Figure 2 - Four Paradigm Model of Burrell & Morgan

Radical Humanism 
RH worldview
RH practice quiz 
Brief definition
Radical Structuralist
RS worldview
Another Slide Another 
RS practice quiz 
Brief definition 
I worldview
Brief definition 
I practice quiz 
F worldview
SlideAnotherAnother More
One page definition 
F Practice Quiz 

Please compare the Burrell and Morgan 4 paradigm model (press here) to the Guba and Lincoln 4 paradigm model (press here) and to yet another I put together (press here). contrasting social construction, poststructalist, postmodern, and critical theory with semiotics (structuralism).

Figure 3 - Four Paradigm Model of Guba and Lincoln

 Positivism -
Critical Theory et al.

The thing I object to most of all in Guba & Lincoln's map is the grouping of (1) critical theory, poststructuralism, and postmodern theory, into the ONE category, "Critical Theory."  So in Figure 4, I prefer to keep the distinctions between Postructuralism, Social Constructionism, Critical Theory and Postmodernism. 

Figure 4 - Four Paradigm Model of Organization Studies (Boje, 1999)

De-centering | Deconstruction | Neo-pragmatism | The structurality of structure 
CT - Critical Theory
Hegemony | Critique of Taylorism/Fordism/ Manic consumerism/Conspicuous production | Critique of social engineering, reengineering, Tom Peters customer sovereignty books
SC - Social Constructionism
Multiple realities | Retrospective sensemaking | Enactment theory
PM - Postmodernism
De-totalizing | De-essentializing | Local narratives | Rhizomatics | Polyphonic |

In Figure 4, within each cage, there are multiple beasts. 

There are multiple postmodern theories: Best and Kellner (1991) differentiate between the postmodernism of Foucault, Deleuze & Guattari, Baudrillard, Lyotard, and Jameson. They then work at the nexus between Critical Theory and Postmodern Theory (1991: 263-304).  That's the "critical postmodern" place I have been working since about 1995 (Boje, 1995). What is Critical Postmodern? To me, it is home. I resist the more radical postmodern formulations of Lyotard (refusal of grand narratives) and Baudrillard (reducing all to simulacra), heading instead to situating social definition within political economy that is also gendered and racist. 

IThere are multiple social construction theories: I don't see social construction and postmodern as the same thing (Ken Gergen works between them).  Thomas Schwandt (1994: 118:137) tires to sort out the difference between constructivist and interpretivist, and other forms of social construction. Interpretivists divide into two camps" interpretive Anthropology of Clifford Geertz and the Symbolic Interactionism of Blumer-Mead. Denzin leads an assault on the Blumer-Mead version of symbolic interactionism, revealing its naive empirical realism (i.e. its a bit too much like Postpositivist paradigm). Denzin prefers cultural criticism.  Now Constructionists, they are a different thing altogether. Constructivists and Interpretivists like to swim in the world of experience. Constructivists, such as Nelson Goodman, deconstruct such grails as empirical realism, objective truth, and essentialist psychological constructs. Goodman is into irrealism (aka, radical relativism).  Ken and Mary Gergen sit on the throne of Social Constructionism. They, like Goodman challenge objective knowledge claims. Gergen took the throne of Social Construction from Berger and Luckman, reducing the subjectivism-reification-objectivism model to just sensemaking and meaning making. IN short, Gergen along with Weick end up focusing on epistemology (ways of sensing and knowing) rather than ontology (being). This means Social Construction (a la Gergen) ends up idealist and relative (Schwandt, 1994: 127).  

The Discourse analysis people (feminists as well as critical theorists) enter into head on contest with the Social Constructionists. Here again, the critical postmodern perspective is the nemesis of social construction. 

The Lack of Critical Purchase Critique of Social Construction - "interpretive accounts lack any critical interest or the ability to critique the very accounts they produce" (Schwandt, 1994: 131). In Burrell & Morgan's (figure 1) terms, social construction is part of the "sociology of regulation" where as critical theory and critical postmodern theory are about the "sociology of radical change." 

Figure 4 - Paradigms of Tales of the Field (Boje, 2013)

Realist "Realist tales are not multi-vocal texts where an event is given meaning first one way, then another, and then still another. Rather a realist tale offers one reading and culls its facts carefully to support that reading. Little can be discovered in such texts that has not been put there by the fieldworker as a way of supporting a particular interpretation" (Van Maanen, 1988: 53).
Impressionist Impressionist Tales "are personalized accounts of fleeting moments of fieldwork cast in dramatic form; they therefore carry elements of both realist and confessional writing" (Van Maanen, 1988: 7).
Confessional Confessional Tale "takes as its missiinthe explication of how fieldwork is accomplished. As such, it is sensitive and sometimes sharply critical of some of the realist devices …" (p. 67). "The distinguishing characteristics of confessional tales are their highly personalized styles and their self-absorbed mandates. The confessional tale is often a response to some of the realist conventions that have proved most embarrassing" (p. 73).
Moves beyond “what is” toward “what could be” and event to “what ought to be” (Carspecken, 1996; Davies, 1999; Denzin, 2001, 2003; Fine, 1994; Madison, 2005; Noblit, Flores & Murillo, 2004; Smith, 1990; Thomas, 1993). Uses Critical Theory, in liberatory interventions to oppose injustice, oppression, suffering
In listening to the Other, who has experienced your intervention, there can be opportunity for frank exchange
It is also an emotional experience, listening to critique of your critique
In Ethic of Care – the long view is to bring about healing, to forgive, to move on.
"… asked to be self-reflective about my positionality: my own power, privilege and control over the scene I am studying and changing (Noblit, Flores & Murillo, 2004: 7; Madison, 2005: 8). Denzin (2001, 2003) roots postcritical ethnography in the “postmodern turn.” Davies (1999: 7) calls for a “reflexive ethnography” a “tracing back” on ourselves.

The first three are from John Van Maanen's (1988) Tales of the Field: On Writing Ethnography. I added two more tales.

My point is that there is not a lot of  theories and approaches get scrunched together and then where are you in each of the paradigm maps (figures 1 to 4)?  Maps are helpful to finding your home, or showing where your home is hegemonically excluded and marginalized. Within each Figure (1 to 4) cage, there are multiple, often conflicting paradigms. They are malformed and mal-constructions. 

Your task is to explore them all and make up your own map.

Lear the critiques of Burrell & Morgan's monster. - The typology becomes a set of cages to imprison the paradigms. Hugh Willmott (1993a), for example, argues that Burrell and Morgan's (1979) two-by-two has four cages that de-problematize the dynamic relations among the paradigms. See Bringing Mind Back Into Research Methods.
*There are problems with the 4 paradigm model - i.e. much of the action is between the cells and CT does not fit too well
See Deetz, Stanley, "Describing Differences in Approaches to Organization Science: Rethinking Burrell and Morgan and Their Legacy," Organization Science, 7 (1996), 191-207.
Deconstruct this - Overview of 4 paradigms of Burrell & Morgan (1979) (press here). Go another way -- Paradigmatics for Beginners - Daniel Chandler (press here). L. L. Lemke's overview of useful philosophies (press here).
Robey's IS QM syllabus (press here).
References for Information Systems Research in QM (press here). TCG's Literary Criticism & Critical Theory Page-Good outline and set of links to Critical Theory, Poststructuralism, Structuralism, Postmodernism, New Historicism, Post Colonialis, etc. (press here). Cultural Studies and Critical Theory Philosophical Pathways (press here). Philosophy Knowledge data base (press here).  More Advanced Approaches
Hermeneutics  is a more difficult topic because there are several forms. In fact there is pre, early mod, late mod & post. There is also Social Construction, Critical Theory, Poststructuralist & Postmodern. 
Four Philosophy Alternatives to Semiotics in QM 
"Small N" web site for
- comparative methods,
- Small N,
- Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and
- Fuzzy-sets (fs/QCA):
Warren Hedges - Timeline of Critical Paradigms (press here)
Douglas Kellner's outline of philosophy (press here) or (here)
Jerry Willis - Overview of research from different paradigms (press here).
Good Time line and links to major philosophies (press here).
Chaos Theory and philosophy of science - (press here).

Where we go from here?

Figure 5 - Antenarrative and Narrative Themes

 What is Postmodern? Critical & Postmod
Resources  for Qualitative Inquiry 

Glossary of Postmodern Terms

NARRATIVE FRAMES This is last topic we will cover, but you may want to begin with some definition of basic concepts: Modules are meant to prepare you to publish in top journals:

EJROT-Electronic Journal of Radical Organizational Theory

TAMARA-Critical Postmodern Journal of Organization Science

Books on Narrative Method

Atkinson, Robert (1998). The life story interview. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Barthes, R. (1966). Introduction to the structural analysis of narratives. In Sontag, S. (eds.) A Barthes Reader, Vintage, 1993.

Boje, D. M. (2001) Narrative Methods for Organizational and Communication Research. London: Sage Publications. See Amazon to order book and/or read book review.

Clandinin, D. Jean & F. Michael Connelly (2000). Narrative Inquiry: Experience and story in qualitative research. SF, CA: Jossey-Bass. See review by Boje, D. M. (2002) Human Relations 55 (6): 734-740. 

Cortazzi, M. (1993). Narrative analysis. Washington, DC: Falmer.

Crossley, Michele L. (2000). Introducing narrative psychology: self, trauma and the construction of meaning. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.

Czarniawska, B. (1997). Narrating the organization: Dramas of institutional identities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Czarniawska, B. (1998). A narrative approach to organization studies. Thousand Oaks: Sage.

Fischer, Walter (1987). Human Communication as Narrative. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press.

Gabriel, Yannis. 2000. Storytelling in organizations: Facts, fictions, and fantasies. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 

Hinchman, L., & Hinchman, S. (Eds.). (1997). Memory, identity, community: The idea of narrative in the human sciences. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.

Josselson, R. (Ed.). (1996). Ethics and process in the narrative study of lives (Vol. 4). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Josselson, R. and A. Lieblich (series of volumes, starting in 1993). Interpreting experience: The narrative study of lives. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Kerby, Antony (1993). Narrative and the Self. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Labov, William (1997). Some further steps in narrative analysis. The Journal of Narrative and Life History. Summary of Labov's books/essays

Lieblich, Amia, Rivka Tuval-Mashiach, and Tamar Zilber (1998). Narrative research Reading, analysis and interpretation. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

McAdams, Daniel P. (1993). The stories we live by : Personal myths and the making of the self. NY: William C. Morrow and Co.

Mishler, E. G. (1986). Research interviewing: Context and narrative. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Mitchell, W. J. T. (Ed.). (1981). On narrative. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Polkinghorne, Donald E. (1988). Narrative knowing and the human sciences. Albany, NY: State of New York University Press.

Ricoeur, Paul (1984). Time and narrative. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Riesman, Catherine Kohler (1993). Narrative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Rosenthal, Gabrielle (1993). Reconstruction of life stories: principles in selection in generating stories for narrive biographical interviews. In Ruthellen Josselson & Amia Lieblich (1993). Narrative Study of Lives 1 (pp.59-91). London: Sage.

Sarbin, Theodore R. (Ed.) (1986). Narrative Psychology. New York: Praeger.

Spradley, J. P. (1979). The ethnographic interview. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Van Maanen, J. (1988). Tales of the Field. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. 

White, M., & Epston, D. (1990). Narrative Means to Therapeutic Ends. New York: Norton.

Journals With Narrative Focus

Journal of narrative and Life History

Narrative Inquiry

Qualitative Inquiry

Tamara: Journal of Critical Postmodern Organization Studies

MODULE - 1. Deconstruction      or (use menu to your left)