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BY-NC-ND 3.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter Open Access October 20, 2016

The Functions of Narrative Passages in Three Written Online Health Contexts

  • Franziska Thurnherr , Marie-Thérèse Rudolf von Rohr and Miriam A. Locher
From the journal Open Linguistics


This paper investigates and compares the functions of narrative passages in three computermediated health practices centering on advice-giving: (1) email counseling at a UK university, (2) online forums providing peer support for quitters of smoking, and (3) anti-smoking websites by UK governmental, commercial and charitable institutions. We found that the functions of the narrative passages are manifold and often overlapping. They range from seeking advice, giving advice, indicating/seeking agreement, supporting a claim, showing compliance with advice given to reporting on progress and success. In a second step, these insights were linked to how the narrative passages were used for identity construction and relational work. The results show that narratives are employed to create various identities, such as authentic advice-seekers, active self-helpers, successful quitters and advice-givers. Our comparison reveals that narrative functions utilized in all three practices exhibit nuanced differences due to medium factors and interactional goals of the practices. Finally, in these contexts of self-improvement, narratives document stability or transformation in the sense of clients’ improved health and smokers’ change to becoming non-smokers respectively.


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Received: 2016-3-24
Accepted: 2016-7-24
Published Online: 2016-10-20

© 2016 Franziska Thurnherr et al.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.

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