Small Stories: A Research Methodology To Work With Migrant Young People and Children

This month we published The Multilingual Adolescent Experience by Malgorzata Machowska-Kosciak. In this post the author explains ‘small stories’ as a research methodology.

‘Small stories’ as a methodological framework enable prioritizing children’s and young people’s lived experience; it is placing their voice at the very forefront of a research process. Not only does it facilitate expression of migrant children’s voices but also facilitates incorporating their authentic lived experiences in the educational research. It brings together Laura Lundy’s model (2007) as it provides young people and children with affordances to express their views (Space), facilitates the expression of their views (Voice), creates opportunities for their voices to be listened to (Audience) and have their views acted upon (Influence). Thus, it goes hand in hand with the Children’s Rights framework.

What are “Small Stories”?

The term “small story” was first coined by Alexandra Georgakopoulou and is defined as “Small incidents that may (or may not) have happened, mentioned to back up or elaborate on an argumentative point occurring in an ongoing conversation” (2007:5).

Small stories that are presented in this book are more than narratives as they are combinations of saying–doing–being–valuing and believing. They become safe spaces where children’s identity work takes place.

Children’s small stories presented in the book were often constructed by co-participants (including the researcher), but more frequently they were spontaneously initiated by the young participants. Threads from these stories were very important to children as fragments of these stories recurrently appeared in their narratives, whenever the chance to talk about them occurred. They included events from the distant past “dead relatives” or more recent past “ I talk with more grown-up voice”, or were concerned with retrospective accounts of different situations “going to the pub”, generalizations “they have only one dance”, assessments of or justifications for particular behaviours “pack of lies” or choices. They sometimes signalled what role children were playing within the particular group (peers, heritage schools), how they positioned themselves within that group and, most importantly, how they exercised their agency, the choices they made and the plans they had for their future, thus, their own voice is central in the research process and the researcher becomes the new apprentice in the discovery process.

For more information about this book please see our website

If you found this interesting, you might also like Learning and Not Learning in the Heritage Language Classroom by Kimberly Adilia Helmer.

New series: Researching Multilingually

To introduce our new series, Researching Multilingually, which we’re launching this year, the series editors Prue Holmes, Richard Fay and Jane Andrews have written this post which outlines the aims of the series.

The increasingly diverse character of many societies means that researchers from a wide range of disciplines may now find themselves engaging with multilingual opportunities as they design, carry out and disseminate their research, even if there is no explicit focus on languages and multilingualism. This book series is designed to address the methodological, practical, ethical options and dilemmas that researchers face may as they conduct their research.

  • How may researchers engage with research methodology which allows them to embrace multilingual possibilities and practices?
  • How may researchers operate with and across multiple languages in the research domain?
  • How are multiple languages reflected in research outcomes and dissemination events and products?

This series establishes a distinctive track of theoretical, methodological, and ethical researcher praxis that readers can draw upon in contexts where multiple languages are at play or might be purposefully used. The series offers critical and interpretive perspectives on research practices in a range of contexts, specifically where languages, and the people speaking and using them, are vulnerable and under pressure, pain, and tension.

For more information about the new series please see our website. Proposals should be sent to Anna Roderick.