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Am J Speech Lang Pathol. 2006 May;15(2):177-91.

The index of narrative microstructure: a clinical tool for analyzing school-age children's narrative performances.

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Preschool Language & Literacy Lab, Curry School of Education, Box 400873, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4273, USA.



This research was conducted to develop a clinical tool-the Index of Narrative Microstructure (INMIS)-that would parsimoniously account for important microstructural aspects of narrative production for school-age children. The study provides field test age- and grade-based INMIS values to aid clinicians in making normative judgments about microstructural aspects of pupils' narrative performance.


Narrative samples using a single-picture elicitation context were collected from 250 children age 5-12 years and then transcribed and segmented into T-units. A T-unit consists of a single main clause and any dependent constituents. The narrative transcripts were then coded and analyzed to document a comprehensive set of microstructural indices.


Factor analysis indicated that narrative microstructure consisted of 2 moderately related factors. The Productivity factor primarily comprised measures of word output, lexical diversity, and T-unit output. The Complexity factor comprised measures of syntactic organization, with mean length of T-units in words and proportion of complex T-units loading most strongly. Principal components analysis was used to provide a linear combination of 8 variables to approximate the 2 factors. Formulas for calculating a student's performance on the 2 factors using 8 narrative measures are provided.


This study provided a method for professionals to calculate INMIS scores for narrative Productivity and Complexity for comparison against field test data for age (5- to 12-year-old) or grade (kindergarten to Grade 6) groupings. INMIS scores complement other tools in evaluating a child's narrative performance specifically and language abilities more generally.

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