Narrative and Frame Analysis: Disentangling and Refining Two Close Relatives by Means of a Large Infrastructural Technology Case

Ewert Johannes Aukes, Lotte E. Bontje, Jill H. Slinger


Social science literature frequently conflates the concepts "narrative" and "frame." We argue not only that using the terms interchangeably is conceptually imprecise but also that analyses based on them actually produce different kinds of knowledge. A systematic disentanglement, contrast and refinement of both concepts benefits from a comparative framework applied to the same case. We provide both. The illustrative case is a large infrastructural coastal management project. The key difference between narratives and frames turns out to be on the respective scale level: frames are actors' perspectives, whereas narratives are the expressed products of those perspectives. Being the mode of expression of one's perspective, we pinpoint "storytelling" as the link between narratives and framing and the origin of the conceptual confusion. Our framework clarifies the terminological usage and enables an informed method choice based on the desired kind of knowledge. With this clearer terminological understanding in mind, we encourage researchers to let the requirements and idiosyncrasies of their specific research interest and context inform their methods choice and to view the comparative framework as a heuristic rather than a deductive scheme.


narrative analysis; frame analysis; narrative; storytelling; frame; framing; comparative framework; methods comparison

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Copyright (c) 2020 Ewert Johannes Aukes, Lotte E. Bontje, Jill H. Slinger

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