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Regular version of the site

Article

The Narrative Uses of Evidence

Policy Studies Journal. 2018. Vol. 46. No. 1. P. 90-118.
Schlaufer C.

When scientific evidence is used in policy controversies, it is always embedded in narrative stories. The Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) is an empirical framework used to study the role of narratives in public policy. While the NPF has considered the relationship between evidence and narratives from different angles, it has not used a consistent approach in examining how evidence is embedded in narratives. This article develops a categorization of narrative uses of evidence. A narrative use of evidence is defined by the different roles that evidence plays in the plot of a narrative depending on which narrative element is addressed by a given piece of evidence. To distinguish different narrative uses of evidence, the article examines how competing coalitions use the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) study in Swiss direct-democratic campaigns on school policy. Quantitative and qualitative content analyses of newspaper articles and governmental documents show how evidence may relate to all main narrative elements and may play different roles in the plot of a narrative. The findings demonstrate significant differences in the narrative uses of PISA between coalitions related to the story types and narrative strategies that each coalition uses.
Finally, the implications for future NPF research are discussed.