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




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


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.


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Author Biographies

Ewert Johannes Aukes, University of Twente

Ewert J. AUKES is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Science, Technology and Policy Studies, Faculty of Behavioral, Management and Social Sciences of the University of Twente, where his tasks comprise research as well as teaching. Having obtained his PhD in 2017 with a dissertation on framing in Dutch coastal policy, he currently works on two EU H2020 projects in the fields of forestry ecosystem services governance innovations and science diplomacy. He has published in scientific as well as professional journals relating to water management and interpretive policy analysis and authored reports for the Dutch public works agency concerning innovations in Dutch water management.

Lotte E. Bontje, Municipality of Lansingerland

Lotte Elisabeth BONTJE holds a PhD degree (2017) in policy analysis, Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management of Delft University of Technology. In her research "Narrative Perspectives on the Development of Coastal Pilot Projects" she utilized the concept of narratives both in analyzing the development of pilot projects and the design of a research strategy. She currently works as a policy adviser for a Dutch municipality.

Jill H. Slinger, Delft University of Technology

Jill H. SLINGER holds a faculty appointment at Delft University of Technology and a visiting professorship at Rhodes University in South Africa. In her research she focuses on the use of ecosystem-based knowledge and modeling to support interactions between people, science and policy in river and coastal systems—a co-design approach to environmental planning and management.




How to Cite

Aukes, E. J., Bontje, L. E., & Slinger, J. H. (2020). Narrative and Frame Analysis: Disentangling and Refining Two Close Relatives by Means of a Large Infrastructural Technology Case. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 21(2).