Memory in narratives and stories: implications for nursing research
Intended for healthcare professionals
Evidence and practice    

Memory in narratives and stories: implications for nursing research

Emma Pascale Blakey PhD Candidate, OxINMAHR, The Colonnade, Oxford, England
Debra Jackson Professor of nursing, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia
Helen Walthall Programme lead nursing, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England
Helen Aveyard Senior lecturer, Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England

Background Memory, as a concept, is rarely discussed or described in qualitative research. However, memories are central to the stories people tell about their experiences of health and illness, which are often the focus of nursing enquiry. Memories also have the potential to be sensitive or traumatic.

Aim To consider the implications of memory for qualitative research by exploring the following issues: What is memory? What are the implications for using it in research? How can research participants and researchers best be supported in qualitative research when sensitive or traumatic memories are involved?

Discussion Memory is imperfect, complex and dependent on context. Memories are connected to meaning and are central to identity. Qualitative research should appreciate the complexities of memory. Nurses undertaking qualitative research should be mindful of the potentially sensitive or traumatic nature of memories. Both participants and researchers can be affected and care should be taken during the research.

Conclusion Memory should not be taken for granted. The meanings underpinning memories are central to qualitative enquiry and are to be valued.

Implications for practice The strategies described in this paper can support researchers and participants when dealing with traumatic or sensitive memories.

Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1641

Peer review

This article has been subject to external double-blind peer review and has been checked for plagiarism using automated software


Conflict of interest

None declared

Blakey E, Jackson D, Walthall H et al (2019) Memory in narratives and stories: implications for nursing research. Nurse Researcher. doi: 10.7748/nr.2019.e1641

Published online: 16 September 2019

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