Giving Data A Soul

Giving Data A Soul

For Signal Hill’s series “A Really Short Interview about Something Big,” I offered a few sentences on the role of storytelling in research and data analysis. The full text is below (or just click on the link above).

In your work you deal with lots of data. What role does storytelling play in making sense of data and acting on data?

In her 2010 TED Talk, researcher Brené Brown said, “Maybe stories are just data with a soul, and maybe I’m just a storyteller.” Her words have had a profound impact on the way in which I approach my own vocation as a researcher. In essence, qualitative researchers like me collect the stories of others and re-tell them in ways that point to broader meanings and themes of importance. However, quantitative researchers also possess the ability to tell stories using numbers as their script. Each minute data point — whether a number or a sentence — reveals only one part of a much larger story; and it takes hundreds, even thousands of data points to weave together a coherent whole. Once the complete story comes together, new insights are revealed and transformation is possible. All data possess the potential to speak to us, but it takes the storyteller-researcher to give data a soul.

By way of a single question, Signal Hill invites reflection from those whose stories inspire us. We call it A Really Short Interview About Something Big. Read more here.

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