Creative Non-Fiction: One Approach to Narrative Research in Education

Wendy Bignold


There has been an increasing trend in using narratives to present individual or group experiences over the last twenty years (Sparkes, 2002 and Heikkinen et al., 2007). However, this approach continues to have its critics as well as its advocates, with some regarding it as invalid due to the creative element within it. There are many different forms of narrative used in education research, such as autobiographical writing. Sparkes identifies different levels of creativity within the narrative process which, he suggests, impact on the validity of the story. He describes one form of narrative as “ethnographic fiction”, based on the researcher “being there” at the time of the incident. This significantly strengthens the validity and credibility in his view as the stories are creative in their use of fictional techniques but are non-fictional in nature being based on real characters and real events and he terms them “creative non-fiction”. Drawing on doctoral research this paper suggests that creative non-fiction can be highly effective in education research as a means of capturing and presenting key themes in learning. As such it is an effective vehicle for understanding how people learn and develop throughout their lives. The paper offers a case study of the use of creative non-fiction and the opportunity it provides for exploring learners’ experiences.

Bignold, W. (2011) Creative Non-Fiction: One Approach to Narrative Research in Education. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 4(1). Available at: [Accessed 21 Apr, 2024].