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Int J Qual Stud Health Well-being. 2011 Apr 12;6(2). doi: 10.3402/qhw.v6i2.5882.

The composite first person narrative: Texture, structure, and meaning in writing phenomenological descriptions.

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  • 1Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences, University of California San Francisco School of Nursing, San Francisco, CA, USA.


This paper illustrates the use of composite first person narrative interpretive methods, as described by Todres, across a range of phenomena. This methodology introduces texture into the presently understood structures of phenomena and thereby creates new understandings of the phenomenon, bringing about a form of understanding that is relationally alive that contributes to improved caring practices. The method is influenced by the work of Gendlin, Heidegger, van Manen, Gadamer, and Merleau-Ponty. The method's applicability to different research topics is demonstrated through the composite narratives of nursing students learning nursing practice in an accelerated and condensed program, obese female adolescents attempting weight control, chronically ill male parolees, and midlife women experiencing distress during menopause. Within current research, these four phenomena have been predominantly described and understood through quantified articulations that give the reader a structural understanding of the phenomena, but the more embodied or "contextual" human qualities of the phenomena are often not visible. The "what is it like" or the "unsaid" aspects of such human phenomena are not clear to the reader when proxies are used to "account for" a variety of situated conditions. This novel method is employed to re-present narrative data and findings from research through first person accounts that blend the voices of the participants with those of the researcher, emphasizing the connectedness, the "we" among all participants, researchers, and listeners. These re-presentations allow readers to develop more embodied understandings of both the texture and structure of each of the phenomena and illustrate the use of the composite account as a way for researchers to better understand and convey the wholeness of the experience of any phenomenon under inquiry.


Composite first person narrative; accelerated nursing program; distress; female adolescents; healthcare; male parolees; menopause; obesity; phenomenology; reintegration

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