Biographic Narrative Interpretative Method (BNIM) From Italy

Todays seminar for the Italian masters and doctoral students in the Department of History, Society and Human Studies at the University of Salento, introduced a robust and rigourous research method which expert Professor Debbie Holley uses in her own research. Pictured below (centre) with the students and their Professor, Enrico Ciavolino (foreground) this seminar was offered as part of the recently signed ERASMUS staff mobility scheme.

Biographic Narrative Interpretative Method (BNIM) draws upon the German school of thought from the early 20th century and is a particular method used to draw out the “stories” or narratives from interviewee’s lives (Wengraf 2001). What is of interest to the researcher is what the interviewee selects to tell us, and the way in which the story is told. The interview is structured such that the interviewee has the time and space to develop their own narrative contribution. The interview transcripts are then interpreted through a microanalysis of the lived life, with the aim of encapsulating the ‘part’ of the transcript, as representative of the whole interview. Thus, the Biographic Narrative Interpretative method (BNIM) method starts from a ‘deliberately narrow position’ that interview data are only about a particular research conversation that occurred at a particular time and place. This approach is useful as it can in part challenge the criticism of the research interview, where, “it assumes too easily that an interview is an unproblematic window on psychological or social realities, and that the ‘information’ that the interviewee gives about themselves and their world can be simply extracted and quoted” (Wengraf 2001:1).

In seeking narrative ‘stories’ from interviewees, judgements need to be made as to the selection of the interviewee and extracts selected for interpretation. West (1996:19) considers the capacity for dialogue and shared insight to be “strangled in its infancy” by the use of objectivist, detached methods which can alienate, disempower and silence people, thus impoverishing their narrative contribution and the understandings they could bring. The BNIM approach, Wengraf (2001) suggests, limits counter transference, which is the emotional reaction of the interviewer to the interviewees subject matter. The BNIM method has a key advantage for interviewing participants known to the interviewer, as it can, in part, address issues of power relationships.

Selected bibliography:

Holley, D & Oliver, M (2009) A private revolution – How technology is enabling students to take their work home Journal of Enhancing Learning in the Social Sciences (ELISS) Journal
Vol. 1 Issue 3 available online 30 April. 
ISSN NO: 1756-848X

Holley D, (2008) Using biographic narrative to explore students’ experiences of online learning in Using Auto/biography in Learning and Teaching (eds) Frame, P & Burnett, J SEDA Paper 120 pp53-58

Holley, D, Sinfield, S & Burns, T (2006) “It was horrid, very very horrid: a student perspective on coming to an inner-city university in the UK pp36-42
Social Responsibility Journal Vol 2 Number 1 2006 ISSN 1747-1117

Wengraf, T. (2001). Qualitative Research Interviewing. London, Sage Publications.

West, L. (1996). Beyond Fragments. London, Taylor Francis.

Leave a Reply

Your details
  • (Your email address will not be published in your comment)

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>