Endings, secrets, and silences: overreading in narrative inquiry

Document Type


Peer Reviewed


Publication Date


NLM Title Abbreviation

Res Nurs Health

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Research in nursing & health

PubMed ID



OBJECTIVE: NA DESIGN: NA SETTING: NA POPULATION: NA INTERVENTIONS: NA MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE(S): NA RESULTS/CONCLUSIONS: Qualitative researchers use memos, audit trails, and research teams to guard against gross misrepresentation or the imposition of bias, but the impossibility of a purely objective recounting of another's story must always be acknowledged. In narrative inquiry the ultimately, unavoidably, subjective nature of interpretation is foregrounded. Interpretation is always qualified. Narrative inquiry entails "overreading", a sensitivity to unspoken or indirect statement, which is central to interpretation. What, though, are the obligations of the overreading researcher, alone at last with a printed transcript whose conflicting or evasive words can be marked and remarked upon? Different qualitative methodologies permit greater or lesser latitude in interpretation, from content analysis, which insists on only the most literal representation of a person's words, to certain kinds of phenomenological research, in which meaning is viewed as transactional and embodied. By acknowledging the narrative vulnerability of both interviewee and interviewer, we allow the unique features of narrative to keep the researcher from superficial conclusions or easy generalizations. [CINAHL abstract]


Qualitative Studies, Narratives, Research Methodology, Storytelling

Published Article/Book Citation

Research in nursing & health, 20:6 (1997) pp.551-557.

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