Analysis and writing up the project
In this chapter we will be concerned mainly to sketch out in more detail how to go about conducting an analysis of your own 'personal narrative'. Before doing so, however, it is necessary to clarify some of the assumptions involved in the pursuit of such an endeavour. What are we actually interested in learning about from the autobiographical interview encounter, and what does this reveal about our conception of the relationship between 'self', 'life' and 'narrative'? How do these assumptions relate to other 'newer' approaches in psychology and how, if at all, are they different from more 'traditional' theoretical orientations?
As we saw in Chapter 2, the range of theoretical orientations available for studying selves and identities incorporates different 'realist' and 'constructivist' assumptions. These theoretical orientations affect how the process of interviewing is conceived and what exactly it can be used for (see Smith 1995). For instance, more traditional 'realist' approaches assume that the interview can be seen as a tool which elicits information about the respondent's beliefs, perceptions or accounts of a particular topic, in this case, stories and narratives of the self. By contrast, social constructivist approaches, such as discourse or rhetorical analysis, view the interview as a place where specific social and interactive functions are being performed. So, rather than taking an interviewee's reponse to a certain question as representative of how they think or feel, the discourse analyst is interested in the social functions achieved by particular responses, for example, the presentation of a 'morally worthy' self, the allocation of blame and so on. The discourse analyst is not at all interested in how this response may 'reflect' on the psychological or social reality of events 'outside' the interview context.