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Narrative inquiry in diabetes research: Illuminating the psychosocial aspects of diabetes

Lisa M. Acuff, MS, Trena M. Paulus, PhD


Diabetes self-care is integrally and holistically connected with everyday life, but research prior to 2008 primarily used surveys and interviews to understand the psychosocial aspects of the illness experience. Narrative research methods, in contrast, can give greaterattention to connection and context. The aim of this paper is:

  1. to review empirical studies using narrative methods to understand the insights narrative inquiry can offer into diabetes psychosocial experiences and concerns; and
  2. to provide methodological recommendations for researchers interested in using narrative inquiry.

Twelve published empirical articles using narrative inquiry in diabetes research were reviewed, and themes were identified using content analysis.

Findings from the analysis of these 12 studies suggested narrative inquiry can offer insight into psychosocial experiences and concerns by:

  1. illuminating how those with diabetes think about and make meaning of this chronic disease;
  2. articulating the social contexts of their experiences; and
  3. making visible the self-care and treatment challenges they face.

Insights from narrative inquiry could enhance diabetes self-managementeducation and support such as encouraging patients to express their experiences as stories to make their challenges visible.

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