Reflections on stories and a story/dialogue method in health research

Ronald Labonte

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    11 Citations (Scopus)


    All research can be considered a form of story-telling, a narrative that begins with a set of questions and assumptions and then follows a convention, based on the researcher's epistemological and methodological stance, in how the findings are presented and interpreted. Stories also have long history of use in research, as therapy, testament, testimony, data and aesthetic expression. One particular form of the use of stories is a 'story-dialogue' method. This method was first developed to assist community health practitioners in analyzing and theorizing their own practice in order to capture and generalize knowledge about changes in the social/ power relations that comprise an important dimension of their work poorly (or not at all) documented through more conventional methods. The story-dialogue method derives from theoretical roots in international development, feminism, critical pedagogy and critical social science. It is premised on first-person practice 'stories' drafted around a generative theme that are then interrogated in a group process, with questioning deliberately structured to move from description (what?) to explanation (why?), synthesis (so what?) and action (now what?). This article's reflection of the method incorporates examples of its use and commentaries from practitioners engaged with it. It concludes with a discussion of the methods strengths, weaknesses and potential use within social health research more generally.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)153-163
    Number of pages11
    JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011


    • Narrative analysis
    • Narrative research
    • Story-telling
    • Structured dialogue

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