I’m speaking today on my effort to create an instrument for coding narrative content in online discussions. Following are sources cited in the presentation.

ReCal2: Reliability for Coders: a handy online calculator for intercoder/interrater reliability for nominal data. Calculates Percent Agreement, Scott’s Pi, Cohen’s Kappa, and Krippendorff’s Alpha (nominal). Site also offers tools for more than two raters coding ordinal, interval, and ratio data.

Altman, D. G. (1991). Practical Statistics for Medical Research. Chapman & Hall/CRC.

Greene, K., & Brinn, L. S. (2003). Messages Influencing College Women’s Tanning Bed Use: Statistical versus Narrative Evidence Format and a Self-Assessment to Increase Perceived Susceptibility. Journal of Health Communication, 8(5), 443–461.

Greenhalgh, T., & Hurwitz, B. (1999). Narrative based medicine: Why study narrative? BMJ, 318(7175), 48-50. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com

Jones, D., Turner, M., Singleton, C., & Ramsay, J. (2009). A study analysing inconsistent responses from people with multiple sclerosis in a recent national audit. Disability and Rehabilitation, 31(25), 2064-2072.

Klenke, K. (2008). Qualitative Research in the Study of Leadership. Emerald Group.

Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data. Biometrics, 33(1), 159.

Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J., & Campanella Bracken, C. (2010, June 1). Intercoder Reliability. Matthew Lombard. Retrieved 02:40:32, from http://astro.temple.edu/~lombard/reliability/

Osborne, J. W. (2008). Best Practices in Quantitative Methods. SAGE.

Papacharissi, Z. (2007). Audiences as Media Producers: Content Analysis of 260 Blogs. In M. Tremayne (Ed.), Blogging, Citizenship, and the Future of Media. New York: Routledge.

Polkinghorne, D. (1988). Narrative Knowing and the Human Sciences. Albany, NY: State University of New York.

Sarbin, T. R. (1986). Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct. Praeger.

Winterbottom, A., Bekker, H., Conner, M., & Mooney, A. (2008). Does narrative information bias individual’s decision making? A systematic review. Social Science & Medicine, 67(12), 2079.

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Come find out what I’ve been working toward for the last three and a half years! On Tuesday, December 7, I will present what we academics call a doctoral dissertation proposal defense.

At 11 a.m., I’ll stand up in front of an audience of stern-looking academics and other interested parties and talk about the really big paper I’m planning to write about my really big research project on storytelling, social networks, and health (see below for the nitty gritty). I’ll talk for 30 minutes; the general public (yes, you!) gets to grill me for 10 minutes. Then my committee grills me for 20 minutes, throws me out to conduct secret deliberations, then drags me back in to tell me whether they’ll let me keep thinking and writing. If my profs give me the thumbs up Tuesday, I get to disappear down the rabbit hole for a few more months, come back out with lots of data, charts, and tested hypotheses, and do a full dissertation defense. And then, if I’m really good, I get some nice letters to put at the end of my name.

Sounds like fun, right? If so, then join in! The proposal defense takes place in the Tunheim Classroom Building, Room 111, on the DSU campus. If you won’t be in Madison on the 7th but would like to listen and submit questions, e-mail me, and I’ll send you a link to the online session.

Ten minutes is an awfully short time for public questions (give me the chance, and I’ll talk with an audience all day long!). If you have questions or feedback that don’t fit in the time Tuesday, I’ll be happy to take your input right here in the comment section. Fire away: just like Johnny Five, I need input!

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The Nitty Gritty

  • Title: “Effects of Narrative on Interpersonal Connection and Communication in Health Social Networks”
  • Date: Tuesday, December 7th
  • Time: 11:00 am (CST)
  • Place: TCB (Tunheim Classroom Building), Room 111

Research Questions:

  1. Does storytelling influence the structure of an online social network?
  2. Do storytellers play a distinct role in sustaining an online social network?

I plan to investigate how people communicate within a health social network, a website providing a forum for interaction among individuals interested in specific health issues (see, for example, CureTogether, PatientsLikeMe, and ObesityHelp). I want to know whether people who use narrative more frequently—i.e., people who tell more stories, share more personal experiences—tend to have more “Friends” (in the Facebook sense of the word) and draw more responses with the online content they provide.

Some theory: Narrative theory says that we make meaning through stories. We are a storytelling species; that’s how we make sense of our world. Social cognitive theory says that social influences shape individual thought and action. Social network theory further supports the idea that our connections with our social network influence who we are and what we do.

Together, these theories suggest that in the context of a health social network, users will gravitate toward information that appeals to their sense of narrative. Personal narratives may provide context, establish authority, and indicate commonality, all of which may appeal more to health social network users than non-narrative information. If narrative content and the users producing it do generate more conversation and connections within health social networks, then that will suggest that storytellers provide distinct value to health social networks and play an important role in sustaining those networks.

In studying the influence of narrative content in health social networks, this dissertation tackles just one aspect of a larger research agenda on the influence of online social networks on health behavior. Like any other health intervention, health social networks matter only so far as they help patients get better, feel better, and live longer. Health social networks may expand our access to information and resources and thus help us make better, more satisfying health decisions. Health social networks may also expose us to all sorts of untested, ill-informed content that leads us to make worse health decisions than if we had just listened to doctor’s orders. Investigating the role of narrative content in health social networks is one step toward evaluating whether health social networks positively influence health behavior.