Narrative is both a research method and an everyday social practice. Narrative research is specifically directed to the ways people and organisations make sense of the social environments in which storied lives intersect.
Open, networked and narrative research practices are not new. Narrative researchers are already helping organisational decision makers set their direction and purpose for the future. Better understanding of the ways we use narrative to engage with others and reflect on our own experience is already supporting new ways of thinking about learning, working and managing change.
There are some emerging challenges facing researchers as we seek to apply narrative insights more consistently to higher education. What do we mean by narrative? Whose narratives are heard and valued? Who is overlooked? When is it most useful to use narrative in research? And can narrative scale?
These challenges are intensifying as institutions turn to big data projects to understand and reshape learning. With such powerful capability to aggregate and interrogate large data sets, what is it important also to learn from social or narrative research, that is necessarily of smaller scale?
Our aim in developing the Open Narrative Research (SoNAR) network is to address these questions directly, and to expand capacity for researchers to collaborate across institutions on developing robust narrative models for higher education research.
SoNAR will be of interest to anyone using social or narrative methods in learning research, strategic planning, organisational and communications research, policy studies and professional development in higher education.
We believe that narrative research has a central role to play in higher education—to imagine change that is practicable and evidence-based, and to examine and promote the critical social purpose of higher education institutions all over the world.