Capturing/captured by stories of marginalized young people: Direct scribing and dialogic narrative analysis

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Social Work

Publication Title

Qualitative Social Work


Examining the results of the ‘‘narrative turn’’ in social work in their seminal article for Qualitative Research in 2005, Riessman and Quinney found themselves disappointed with the size and quality of the research corpus they reviewed. However, they also identified three exemplars of promising work, including the research of Faye Martin (Martin, 1998). Riessman and Quinney highlighted Martin’s narrative-gathering strategy, devised on the basis of her practice experience and dubbed ‘‘direct scribing.’’ The direct scribing method of narrative data collection disciplines the work of the researcher, who becomes the ‘‘scribe,’’ and elaborates the roles of the interviewees as authors of the narratives that they create. This article on capturing (and being captured by) the narratives of marginalized young people is situated in an increasingly significant movement in the social work literature that promotes giving voice to young people, so that they may have their views taken into account. We highlight the benefits of direct scribing as a means of narrative-gathering in social work and then address the challenge of interpreting these narratives, drawing on examples from our research. We suggest connections between direct scribing and the interpretive approach of dialogic narrative analysis as a method of interpretation that requires ‘‘letting stories breathe.’’ (Frank, 2010). The aim of this contribution is to describe specific ways in which linking direct scribing and dialogical narrative analysis may contribute to the advancement of narrative research in social work, and, in particular, to the enhancement of efforts to amplify ‘‘youth voice’’ in social work policy and practice.

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