Narrative health research: Exploring big and small stories as analytical tools

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In qualitative health research many researchers use a narrative approach to study lay health concepts and experiences. In this article, I explore the theoretical linkages between the concepts narrative and health, which are used in a variety of ways. The article builds on previous work that conceptualizes health as a multidimensional, positive, dynamic and morally dilemmatic yet meaningful practice. I compare big and small stories as analytical tools to explore what narrative has to offer to address, nuance and complicate five challenges in narrative health research: (1) the interplay between health and other life issues; (2) the taken-for-granted yet rare character of the experience of good health; (3) coherence or incoherence as norms for good health; (4) temporal issues; (5) health as moral practice. In this article, I do not present research findings per se; rather, I use two interview excerpts for methodological and theoretical reflections. These interview excerpts are derived from a health promotion study in the Netherlands, which was partly based on peer-to-peer interviews. I conclude with a proposal to advance narrative health research by sensitizing researchers to different usages of both narrative and health, and the interrelationship(s) between the two.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)93-110
Number of pages17
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 12 Jun 2013


  • METIS-290993
  • IR-82675


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