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Using Stories to Disseminate Research: The Attributes of Representative Stories

Authors
  • Steiner, John F.1
  • 1 University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, The Colorado Health Outcomes Program and the Division of General Internal Medicine, Aurora, CO, 80010, USA , Aurora (United States)
Type
Published Article
Journal
Journal of General Internal Medicine
Publisher
Springer-Verlag
Publication Date
Sep 01, 2007
Volume
22
Issue
11
Pages
1603–1607
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1007/s11606-007-0335-9
Source
Springer Nature
Keywords
License
Yellow

Abstract

When researchers communicate their findings to patients, clinicians, policy-makers, or media, they may find it helpful to supplement quantitative data with stories about individuals who represent themes in their research. Whether such stories are gathered during the research itself or identified from other sources, researchers must develop strategies for assessing their representativeness. This paper proposes 5 attributes of representative stories: (1) expression of important themes in the research, (2) explicit location in the “distribution” of stories that exemplify the theme, (3) verifiability, (4) acknowledgment of uncertainty, and (5) compelling narration. This paper summarizes research on substance abuse among physicians, and uses these 5 attributes to assess the representativeness of a published case report and a fictional short story about addicted physicians. While neither story is fully representative of the research, the process of evaluating these stories illustrates an approach to identifying representative stories for use in disseminating research.

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