Interpreting Narratives Within a Cross-National Interdisciplinary Study: A Case Study of a Collaborative Process

Deborah L. Tolman, Chunyan Yu, Kristin N Mmari

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Purpose This article presents a case study of a collaborative process for the analysis of a young girl's narrative on becoming an adolescent in Shanghai. The purpose was to illuminate how interpretation of narratives can be strengthened with a diverse team of researchers. Methods Three different researchers, each representing a different discipline and lens for analyzing qualitative data, collaboratively analyzed and interpreted a 12-year-old girl's narrative from Shanghai as part of the Global Early Adolescent Study. Each researcher first analyzed the narrative separately with a written summary that was then analyzed for differences and similarities across the research team, along with further cross-checks of the translations of the recording. Results Throughout the analysis, we argued that the narrative was a story about gender and power: the gendered nature of socializing a girl, the interpersonal process of a mother, at the behest of a father, to press a daughter to behave in a proper, modest fashion, and the daughter learning the appropriate and proper way for adult woman to comport herself. At the same time, by bridging our interpretations together, we also came to agree that it was a story of a Chinese girl's loss of freedom and capitulation, evident in her resignation to comply with the gender norm that required that she refrain from displaying her body in a certain way at the dinner table. Conclusions Recording our collaborative analysis process enabled us to illuminate how researchers who work on cross-national studies can combine forces—of perspectives and of methods—for a compelling approach that provides a more comprehensive analysis of the underlying meanings behind an interview narrative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S19-S23
JournalJournal of Adolescent Health
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Adolescents
  • Cross-cultural studies
  • Gender and health
  • Narrative analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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