Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

LIVES IN CONTEXT: The Art of Life History Research

Academic journal article Journal of Comparative Family Studies

LIVES IN CONTEXT: The Art of Life History Research

Article excerpt

COLE, Arda L. and J. Gary KNOWLES, eds., LIVES IN CONTEXT: The Art of Life History Research. Walnut Creek, CA: Altamira Press, 2001,272pp., $ 22.95 softcover/ $39.95 hardcover.

Lives in Context comes at a time when life history and narrative research are attracting increasing attention, as the recent Narrative Matters conference (May, 2002), sponsored jointly by St. Thomas University and the University of New Brunswick attests. Arda L. Cole and J. Gary Knowles edited volume seems set for those with some knowledge of research and its methodologies but perhaps less familiarity with life history research. This volume is a welcome edition to the literature and offers advanced research typified by the five volume Narrative Study of Lives series edited by Amia lieblich and Ruth-Ellen Josselson. Lives in Context also provides a good grounding for tackling important texts like Jerome Bruner's Acts and Meanings (1991) or The Culture of Education (1996) and the work of lieblich and her colleagues Narrative Research: Reading, Analysis and Interpretation (1998). This volume has utility for many disciplines and the author's discussion of the life history literature, including some research classics, is quite valuable.

Cole and Knowles have divided Lives in Context into two parts. The first set of chapters provides a rationale for life history research, and delineates between various (often interrelated) approaches. The authors also provide a detailed and lengthy discussion of the principles guiding life history research, including such aspects as relation, mutuality, reflexivity, and resonance, in achieving empathy, in the research setting. The author's melding of life history principles and methodology with ethical issues starts novice researchers out on the right track in thinking through any prospective project.

The second set of thirteen chapters, Experiencing Method, is made up of contributions by researchers, including Cole and Knowles, covering a variety of topics and research venues. The contributors themselves come from a variety of professional backgrounds and points of engagement. Thus a "street nurse", exercise specialist, counselling psychologist, doctoral student, and several independent researchers, as well as academics, offer their unique insights on doing life history research. …

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