Narrative Synthesis – a different angle on storytelling

A recent trawl of storytelling topics for reading brought up this: Narrative Synthesis. Not something I’d come across before.

I stumbled on it after finding this presentation by Popay, J et al (2005?) and I requested the full report that you can find by following the links in the presentation.

I don’t fully “get” what is is yet but as far as I can see it’s an approach to shaping social policy by looking at qualitative research from a wide range of sources and attempts to create a sort of meta-narrative of the findings. As the guidance document puts it:

“‘Narrative Synthesis'” refers to an approach to the systematic review and synthesis of finding s from multiple studies that relies primarily on the use of words and text (emphasis mine) to summarise and explain the findings of the synthesis. Whilst narrative synthesis can involve the manipulation of statistical data, the defining characteristic is that it adopts a textual approach to the process of synthesis to “tell the story” of the findings from the included studies.” (Popay, J et al 2006)

I need to figure out how this relates to my research questions but it’s certainly a useful addition to my literature review. I doesn’t take a leap of the imagination to consider where this document talks about the use of words and text, that that could be augmented with other digital media.

Popay, J, Roberts H, Sowden A, Petticrew M, Arai L, Rodgers M, Britten N, (2006) Guidance on the Conduct of Narrative Synthesis in Systematic Reviews: a product from the ESRC Methods Programme. Available on request via



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