Poetics in Practice: narratives of primary care consultations

Can you apply narrative methodology to real life GP consultations and patient histories? This project will use storytelling to create a toolkit that will improve communication when giving and receiving medical histories.

The importance of a GP’s ability to take in, understand and tell stories is well established. GP’s use narratives to give/take medical histories, communicate diagnoses and treatment plans, and within teaching and research.  Despite this, narrative research methodologies have only been applied to literary texts. This project will be the first to apply narratology tools to ‘real world’ clinical data. It will interrogate the theory and practice of narrative ‘poetics’ in GP consultations.

This research will use the One in a Million Archive. This Archive consists of 300 video recordings of GP consultations collected from 12 GP surgeries in Bristol over 8 months.

This project emerged from the Brigstow 2018 Idea Exchange “One in a Million: Qualitative Data Archive – ideas exchange to share good practice and widen usership”

What is being created?

Together the team will create a new understanding of the narrative dynamics of giving and taking patient histories. They will use this to inform creative strategies which they hope will generate significant change in GP consultations. They will translate their research into a story book and storytelling toolkit. This toolkit will transform both the patient and the GP’s abilities in giving/receiving patient histories.

Poetics in Practice have created a Storybook about their project so far containing examples of conversation analysis, photos and more:

Poetics in Practice Storybook PDF

Poetics in Practice Story Book Word Doc


Who are the team and what do they bring?

  • Genevieve Lively‘s (Classics) research focuses on narratives. She will lead on the methodological/narratological aspects of the research.
  • Dr Barbara Caddick (Population Health Science) will be working closely with Genevieve in selecting and analysing sample case studies.
  • Dr Rebecca Barnes (Population Health Science) will contribute her expertise in conversation analysis methods. Rebecca led the One in a Million study and is data steward for the primary care consultations archive it created.
  • Daniel Morden will be using his storytelling expertise. Daniel tells stories in hospices and gave the keynote speech at Storytelling for Health on how storytelling can help patients to construct a new narrative.

What's next?

The team will use this research project as ‘proof of concept’ to create a collaborative grant application for further funding.

“Working together across such different disciplines has been challenging sometimes – particularly when it came to the process of securing our NHS Ethics Approval for the project! But the creative aspects and moments of the project have brought us all together beautifully – and helped to anchor the research work. I’ve learned a lot from the process, and have carried this learning over into other research projects – most recently, getting collaborators from DSTL, GCHQ, MoD, DEFRA, and BEIS to play with lego, play-doh, and fuzzy -felt as part of a narrative futures exercise.” Genevieve Liveley

“We love that this project brings together disparate disciplines. Through a shared interest in narratives, the research has unlocked the potential of a unique archive.” Brigstow