• discourse analysis;
  • narrative analysis;
  • poststructuralist theory;
  • language;
  • interpretative methodology;
  • anorexia nervosa;
  • internet postings;
  • nursing research

Aims. A poststructuralist orientation to language contends that individuals inherit the language they present to others – and in the context of research, stories and accounts are understood because researchers and research participants share such inheritances. Nurse theorists have foregrounded the constructive aspects of language yet few scholars have focused on how context and different narrative structures affect story construction. Story presentations are always sculpted by the context in which they are told. Thus, the construction of individual experience is neither a-historical nor a-contextual.

Methods. This work emanates from a larger study that focused on the social construction of anorexia nervosa and in which data were collected from 12 individual interviews, autobiographical accounts and postings from a public Internet group. A poststructuralist orientation to how data are theorized and analysed was used for the study. This article focuses on the differences of account presentation between the three different types of data.

Conclusions. Individuals inherit not only shared language, but the customs in which language is exchanged, for example, how interviews are performed, memoirs are written, and on-line conversations are constructed. Focusing on context foregrounds the notion that stories have different functions and outcomes, depending on the purpose of the telling. Hence, the social and cultural frameworks in which stories are communicated are not incidental, but instrumental to what can be articulated in the production of individual experience.