Handbook of Longitudinal Research Methods in Organisation and Business Studies
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Handbook of Longitudinal Research Methods in Organisation and Business Studies

Edited by Mélanie E. Hassett and Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki

This innovative Handbook demonstrates that there is no single best approach to conducting longitudinal studies. At their best, longitudinal research designs yield rich, contextualised, multilevel and deep understanding of the studied phenomenon. The lack of resources in terms of time, funding and people can pose a serious challenge to conducting longitudinal research. This book tackles many of these challenges and discusses the role of longitudinal research programmes in overcoming such obstacles.
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Chapter 7: Narratives as longitudinal and process data

Eriikka Paavilainen-Mäntymäki and Leena Aarikka-Stenroos


Process research typically focuses on explaining how and why the sequence or order of events and activities evolve and change over time and place (see Elliott 2005; Langley 1999; Van de Ven 1992). Process data often include ‘stories about what happened, who did what and when’ (Langley 1999,p. 692), which draws in narrative features. Events forming processes also provide timely structures through which to understand social action in time (Halinen and Törnroos 1995, p. 215; Makkonen et al. 2012). By definition, a narrative is a story with a beginning, middle and end, where the essential elements are contextualized and the reasons and consequences are linked. Similarly, processes have a beginning, middle and end, and unravel over time in context, revealing the connections of events, actions and activities (Makkonen et al. 2012; Van de Ven 1992). Narrators create plots from disordered experience and the chain of events structures the story temporally and spatially (Riessman 2002; Elliott 2005). Narratives and their application have attracted increasing interest and been adopted as useful data collection and analytical tools in several disciplines, for example psychology, history, medicine, sociology, pedagogy and economics (Riessman 2002; Elliott 2005; Pace 2008). Narrative is a holistic description of what has happened and therefore a medium that is easy to construct, understand, convey and remember (Linde 2001; Pentland 1999), as it resembles folklore and tales. A narrative can describe an event, a longitudinal process, an entire life story, the history of an organization or an era (Flick 1998; Elliott 2005).

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