An introduction to the biographical narrative interpretive method
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An introduction to the biographical narrative interpretive method

Melissa Corbally Lecturer in nursing, Dublin City University, Republic of Ireland
Catherine S O’Neill Director of MSc nursing programme, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Adliya, Kingdom of Bahrain

Aim To introduce the biographical narrative interpretive method (BNIM) to nurse researchers in search of a new methodology and method.

Background Listening to and interpreting the narratives of patients is a core feature of nursing. Research methodologies and methods frequently do not fully take into account the historical, psycho-social and biographical dynamics of people’s lives.

Data sources This paper draws from the experiences of both authors who have previously utilised the BNIM method, as well as sourcing relevant literature.

Review methods This is a methodology paper that reviews the historical context of BNIM and provides an overview of its potential application for nursing research.

Discussion The core assumptions and analytic strategy of BNIM focus on three inter-related facets: the person’s whole life history or story (biography), how they tell it (narrative) and the social interpretation (interpretive). BNIM uses a unique interviewing technique to elicit an uninterrupted story from participants. The BNIM analytic tool is formulaic and uses nine stages to analyse individual cases. A tenth stage helps with analysis across cases.

Conclusion BNIM methodology and methods empower participants to articulate the vicissitudes of their life and experiences of illness while also providing the researcher with a framework for data analysis and interpretation to give meaning to individuals’ life stories.

Implications for research/practice The BNIM interview technique and analytic framework are useful tools to help with an in-depth qualitative exploration of life stories in context.

Nurse Researcher. 21, 5, 34-39. doi: 10.7748/nr.21.5.34.e1237

Peer review

This article has been subject to double blind peer review

Conflict of interest

None declared

Received: 21 March 2013

Accepted: 29 July 2013

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