The narrative interview technique is one of the hardest for students to describe and explain because it’s so abstract. Using real studies can make the approach more concrete. 

Note: this task has been developed for the “old” syllabus.

Task #1: Making Predictions

  • Explain the aim of the study summarized below. Student’s think-pair-share about what research method they would use and why.
  • Discuss as a class and then have students read the summary to see if they were “right.”

Task #2: Understanding narrative interviews

  • Have students read the summary.
  • They need to construct the narrative interview question that they think the researchers might have used. (They can read the post linked below if they need help.)

This blog post on “What is a narrative interview” might help students figure out what a narrative interview question looks like.


Task #3 Application

  • Students work together to come up with a list of relevant points to make about the study in regards to the following key methods and concepts in qualitative research:
    • Narrative interview method
    • Considerations (in setting up and/or carrying out the interview)
    • Thematic content analysis
    • Triangulation
    • Ethical considerations
    • Participant expectations
    • researcher bias
    • Credibility
    • Reflexivity

Their points could be related to:

    • How?
    • Why?
    • Limitations?
      • If students need more guidance, they can refer to the list of practice exam questions listed later in this post.

Breastfeeding Twins: A Qualitative Study (Cinar et al. 2013)

A lot of research has shown that breastfeeding is beneficial for babies and is preferential to bottle feeding. For this reason, training programmes that aim to educate new mothers often encourage breastfeeding instead of using a bottle. However, this can cause stress for some mothers who struggle to breastfeed, or cannot breastfeed at all. For example, mothers of twins may find it much more difficult than others.

This study actually arose from “…involvement of one of the researchers in a breastfeeding education programme for mothers. During those educational sessions, the author realized that the programme was not appropriate for the women carrying multiple babies. Despite their aim of encouraging the use of human milk, medical care providers often find it difficult to provide advice and support to these families. “ For this reason, the researchers aimed to “…explore the needs and difficulties of those mothers by focusing on their experiences with breastfeeding their babies.”

The participants were a purposive sample of ten mothers of twins from Sakarya, a province in Turkey, and who lived in the city centre. They were aged between 21-34 who volunteered to be in the study after a researcher contacted them by telephone and told them what it was about. The study was approved by the “Ethical Committee of the University of Sakarya.”

The researchers conducted narrative interviews in the mothers homes. The interviews were designed to reveal the mothers’ experiences of breastfeeding twins and were recorded. Two researchers later transcribed the data for analysis.

A thematic analysis was conducted on the transcripts and this revealed a number of themes, including willingness of mothers to breastfeed and continue, management of breastfeeding, instructions of healthcare personnel, and advice from practice of experienced mothers.

The study showed that the women were aware of the importance of mother’s milk for their babies and they made the effort to breastfeed their twins, but they had fears for whether or not they were providing enough milk. They also felt exhausted and worried that they didn’t have anyone to help them and there was a lack of information about nursing twins.

The researchers conclude that because human milk is the best source of nutrition for a baby, mothers should continue to be encouraged to breastfeed. However, documents and information for mothers of multiple babies should be created to help these women and the challenges of breastfeeding multiple babies needs to be kept in mind.

Cinar, N. D., Alvur, T. M., Kose, D., & Nemut, T. (2013). Breastfeeding Twins: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Health, Population, and Nutrition31(4), 504–509.

Link to full original study


Practice Exam Questions

  • Discuss the use of a narrative interview method in this study.
  • Explain two considerations relevant to setting up and/or carrying out the interviews in this study.
  • Explain the use of inductive content analysis (thematic analysis) on interview transcripts in this study.
  • Explain the effect of triangulation on the credibility/trustworthiness of this study.
  • Discuss ethical considerations relevant to this study.
  • Explain possible effects of participant expectations and/or researcher bias in this study.
  • To what extent can findings can be generalized from this study?
  • Explain the role of reflexivity in this study.

We’re working on a Paper 3 digital revision resource that we hope can be made available in time for the May 2018 exams.


Another narrative interview study…

  • A narrative interview method used to assess reliability of traumatic memories of 9/11 (Link)

Why are qualitative methods used?

If quantitative data was gathered in order to study the women’s experiences of breastfeeding, then a measurement tool would have to be created to get this data (like a questionnaire or structured interview). But in creating such an instrument, the researchers would need to use existing knowledge of experiences of breast-feeding twins. Because this is not a well-researched area, the researchers can use qualitative methodology to allow the full range of subjective experiences of participants to be revealed.