Anatomy of the Story: Narratives of Mortuary Science Learners and Graduates




Moreno, Jose Luis

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Using the anatomy of the story as a framework (Guajardo & Guajardo, 2010), this qualitative study reports the narratives of nine Mortuary Science learners and graduates from an accredited two-year Mortuary Science program in Texas. The research questions are: (1) What can we learn from the narratives of Mortuary Science learners and graduates? (2) What are the learning journeys of nine individuals currently enrolled or graduated from an accredited two-year Mortuary Science program? (3) What challenges and successes have they experienced during their residence in the program, their internship, and the process of obtaining a license? Data collected for the study include pláticas (conversational interviews), artifacts, documents, and the researcher’s analytic journal. Data analysis was multilayered and included several phases. First, MAXQDA software served to code the data using a priory codes (navel, heart, mind, hands, and legs) as the study framework. Next, the coded data were retrieved into a separate Word document to code it again for triangulation purposes. Narrative analysis techniques (story as data collection and data analysis) were at the center of reporting study findings to be faithful to storytelling and the anatomy of the story framework. This dissertation is divided into four main parts plus Appendix. Part I, Anatomy of the story, presents the research questions and the guidelines for the anatomy of the story to guide the reader on what to expect in this dissertation. Part II, Visualizing the main characters of the story, provides a rich description of the study participants—the navel. Part III, The main elements of the story, presents the heart, mind, hands, and legs of the story in separate sections. Part IV, Stories harvested for new beginnings, discusses the main learning product of analyzing the collective story of learners and graduates. The Appendix section of the dissertation includes important pieces explaining the elements that are expected in a traditional dissertation such as relevant literature and overall study design. Using the human anatomy as a metaphor, study findings are presented through navel, heart, mind, hands, and legs. The study participants represent the navel. A rich description of nine Mortuary Science learners and graduates and their career journey is provided. The heart represents the values that professionals in Mortuary Science seek to instilled in learners and practitioners: empathy, care and respect for the dead, investment and satisfaction with a job well done, confidence, and eagerness to learn. The mind speaks to the critical analysis of the story to dismantle stereotypes held by learners (e.g., performing autopsies and minimum interaction with surviving relatives). The hands mold ideas and values to develop a new identity for the individuals involved. Here the participants identified the need for team development, relational learning, and on-the-job training. Finally, the legs provide mobility to the story to create an impact beyond the story teller and move people to action. This metaphor symbolizes the eagerness and good disposition of the study participants to create legacy to pave the road for the next generation of Mortuary Science professionals. Finally, recommendations for practice, tensions and challenges, ideas for future research, and concluding thoughts are provided.



Mortuary science, Mortuary science students, Funeral practitioners, Anatomy of the story, Narrative analysis, Storytelling, Harvesting the story, Funeral service education, Funeral service program, Mortuary schools, Mortuary science degree, Death care


Moreno, J. L. (2015). <i>Anatomy of the story: Narratives of mortuary science learners and graduates</i> (Unpublished dissertation). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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