Initiating a Science of Storytelling: A Framework for Using Stories in Knowledge Translation Interventions


Stories are ubiquitous, have been used for communication and entertainment for thousands of years, engage us by evoking emotion, and can compel us to think or behave differently. Using story-based methods in knowledge translation interventions capitalizes on our affinity for stories by presenting evidence-based health information in context-rich, accessible, entertaining and memorable ways. Indeed, recent systematic reviews have found that changing health-promoting behaviours using stories appears to be a promising option for knowledge translation (KT); however, there is little guidance to help determine how and when to use storytelling as a KT intervention. In response, we aimed to build a framework for using stories as KT interventions to assist researchers and practitioners in thoughtful planning and evaluation.


We conducted a broad search of the literature, within parameters determined by the team, to identify studies that used storytelling as KT interventions across various disciplines (health research, education, policy development, anthropology, organizational development, technology research, and media studies). We extracted purposes, theories, models, mechanisms and outcomes from the articles and mapped the theoretical and practical considerations pulled from the literature onto the Medical Research Council guidance for complex interventions. This mapping exercise uncovered common considerations for storytelling in KT interventions, and thus comprised the basis of our storytelling framework development. Methodological experts helped refine and revise the drafted framework based on their expertise using stories in KT activities and interventions. These team members helped to assess and deepen the completeness, accuracy, nuance, and usability of the storytelling framework.


Storytelling is an attractive KT method but is a complex approach that, to be high quality and successful, requires thoughtful planning and full consideration of multiple intervention components. We designed our framework to make explicit the considerations required to identify when storytelling might be appropriate for the intervention goals and audience, and subsequently, how to build and test the storytelling intervention. In turn, the framework can help guide decisions around whether storytelling is appropriate and/or feasible in a given set of circumstances.


We built this framework through a complex intervention lens to: 1) help people consider the appropriateness of stories for their intervention goals; and 2) rigorously plan and evaluate their storytelling interventions. Providing such a framework creates the opportunity to embed theory when using storytelling as a complex KT intervention. In this presentation we will walk through the framework components with storytelling examples.


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