Group Analysis in Practice: Narrative Approaches


  • Ann Phoenix University College London
  • Julia Brannen University College London
  • Heather Elliott University College London
  • Janet Smithson University of Exeter
  • Paulette Morris Berkshire Family Mediation
  • Cordet Smart Plymouth University
  • Anne Barlow University of Exeter
  • Elaine Bauer London South Bank University



narrative analysis, group analysis, reflective analysis, line-by-line analysis, primary and secondary analysis, qualitative analysis, conversation analysis


Working in groups is increasingly regarded as fruitful for the process of analyzing qualitative data. It has been reported to build research skills, make the analytic process visible, reduce inequalities and social distance particularly between researchers and participants, and broaden and intensify engagement with the material. This article contributes to the burgeoning literature on group qualitative data analysis by presenting a worked example of a group data analysis of a short extract from an interview on serial migration from the Caribbean to the UK. It describes the group's working practices and the different analytic resources drawn upon to conduct a narrative analysis. We demonstrate the ways in which an initial line-by-line analysis followed by analysis of larger extracts generated insights that would have been less available to individual researchers. Additionally, we discuss the positioning of group members in relation to the data and reflect on the porous boundary between primary and secondary analysis of qualitative data.



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Author Biographies

Ann Phoenix, University College London

Ann PHOENIX is professor of psychosocial studies at Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education. Her research interests are psychosocial, including motherhood, family lives, social identities, young people, racialization and gender. She has particular interests in qualitative and mixed methods, re-use of data and narrative research.

Julia Brannen, University College London

Julia BRANNEN is professor of sociology of the family at Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education and adjunct professor in the Department of Sociology, University of Bergen. Her research interests include families and intergenerational relations and the work-family interface. She has a special interest in methodology including mixed methods, comparative cross-national research, biographical approaches and narrative research.

Heather Elliott, University College London

Heather ELLIOTT is a researcher at the Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education. Her research interests include narrative and psychosocial approaches, secondary analysis of qualitative data and the maternal, particularly digital contexts for mothering.

Janet Smithson, University of Exeter

Janet SMITHSON is a senior lecturer on the doctor of clinical psychology, doctor of clinical practice, and doctor of clinical research programs in the school of psychology. She is a conversation analyst whose research interests include gender and discourse, life course transitions, qualitative methodology and analysis, work-life balance, online discourse and communication.

Paulette Morris, Berkshire Family Mediation

Paulette MORRIS is program leader (subject matter expert) mediation, at the chartered institute of arbitrators. She is a trainer of family mediators and mentors. Her research interests include family mediation and how mediators manage the mediation process.

Cordet Smart, Plymouth University

Cordet SMART is a lecturer in clinical psychology at Plymouth University. Her research interests include group interactions in multiple family and clinical contexts. She has a particular interest in language based research methods including discourse analysis, conversation analysis and narrative analysis.

Anne Barlow, University of Exeter

Anne BARLOW is professor of family law and associate dean, research and knowledge transfer and policy. Her research focuses on family law and policy, especially the regulation of adult relationships such as cohabitation, marriage and housing law.

Elaine Bauer, London South Bank University

Elaine BAUER is a senior research fellow at London South Bank University. Her research interests include international migration, transnationalism, race and ethnic relations.




How to Cite

Phoenix, A., Brannen, J., Elliott, H., Smithson, J., Morris, P., Smart, C., … Bauer, E. (2016). Group Analysis in Practice: Narrative Approaches. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 17(2).



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