Monday, April 10, 2006

Research as writing as research: voice and time

William G. Tierney, 1997, "Lost in Translation: Time and Voice in Qualitative Research," in Representation and the text: re-framing the narrative voice, edited by William G. Tierney and Yvonna S. Lincoln, pp.23-36, Albany: SUNY Press.


I, the interviewer

"Another form for the author is to enter the text as a researcher who provides the reader with partial transcripts from the interview protocol. What one finds in this text is again the stable presence of a researcher; readers are ostensibly able to be as close to the data as is possible: we read the transcripts." (p.26)

Example #1

AA: Do you carry guns? Why yes or no?

Amer: Yes, I like to have guns because we have to defend ourselves. I am not scared of machine guns.

Example #2

Student: I know for myself, living here as the only black RA [Resident Assistant]in this building, the things that happen to me that I can say have to do with my race or my sex, it's the racism that comes out first.

Interviewer: Yes, I know exactly what you mean. Throughout my life I've always felt that when I walk into a room where there are mostly white people, I'm first seen as a black, then as a woman.

"Although the narrative style is similar, there are also significant differences. In effect, the author has three voices. One voice is the 'I'—'as we talked further.' The second voice is 'the interviewer.' Indeed, unlike the first example where the author's initials are presented, we read the role rather than the individual—'the interviewer.' And yet the author also enters the text not simply to move the action along as a narrator, but also to present a human side to the discourse—'I know exactly what you mean.' Thus, in this text, the author offers three different identities—narrator, interviewer, participant." (p.26-27)

I, the omniscient narrator

"What occurs in these texts is that we again see a stable narrator—or rather do not see, but hear the action move along in a singular narrative fashion." (p.27)


linear time & disjunctive time

"One way [linear] to express the events in a text is chronologically, so that the reader discovers a beginning, a middle and an end. The manner in which an author presents him or her self in the text often coincides with the temporal nature of the text...A more commonplace way [disjunctive] for the author to deal with time is to disregard it...These kinds of comments assume that the temporal nature of the data is unimportant. This form of comment is the temporal equivalent of the omniscient narrator."

disjunctive and linear time, present tense

Present tense and linear time "calls for a willing suspension of disbelief; like all listeners, we know that the storyteller knows the end of the story. The story already has happened. But we join in a sense of disbelief because we want to be told how the story ends. When disjunctive time is used in the present tense...the reader is aware that the story has concluded; we do not need a sense of disbelief." (p.29)

disjunctive and linear time, past tense

"Here we learn that the action has happened and the author is retelling the story. We again do not need to suspend disbelief because we are not expected to be involved in the text. The past tense can be used with either linear or disjunctive time." (p.29)


"What we learn, then, is that the proposition of time in our qualitative texts seems to be either-or. We use either the present or the past. Time either unfolds chronologically or is irrelevant." (p.30)


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