Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Childhood Education and Literacy Studies

Major Professor

Jenifer J. Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Thomas B. Crisp, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Danielle Dennis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

James R. King, Ed.D.


cross-modal responses, editorial cartoons, interpretive methodology, non-linear narratives, recursive and iterative


This work grew from my attempts to find a method for studying a body of editorial cartoons—multi-modal documents producing cross-modal responses—that were created and published in an earlier time period, in order to answer questions about the culture in which the cartoons were produced and read. Initially my questions included wondering about the topics cartoonists addressed, the narratives cartoonists created to address the topics, how the narratives were framed, and in what ways the narratives might have been seen as attempts to shape the larger cultural discourse around the topics. However, given the number of possible combinations of information streams contained in any one document, I found myself becoming frustrated in the search for an applicable method. I realized I needed to create a method that made the narrative explicit, while noting the structural elements by which the narrative was conveyed. I also realized this combination of methods, if carefully crafted, could be applied to many types of documents and not just to editorial cartoons. This paper recounts my development of Mapping Narrative Transactions (MNT), a method for systematically exploring narrative multi-modal documents as ethnographic artifacts, a method that acknowledges and captures the researcher’s own cognitive, cross-modal, and narrative responses to the individual documents, thus making the interpretive process of the documents more transparent and increasing the depth of the ethnographic study. Built on an understanding that interpreting documents involves considering them from both an hermeneutical and a phenomenological perspective—that is, studying the structure of the document as well as the people and processes that produced the document—MNT inverted and expanded upon Altheide and Schneider’s (2013) ethnographic content analysis (ECA). In turn, the concepts of symbolic interactionism and analytic realism informed the ethnographic approach of ECA. In this paper, I discuss the structure of multi-modal documents, review literature on methods of studying multi-modal documents in general and editorial cartoons, in particular, and explain step-by-step how MNT developed and how it works. Finally, I discuss design choices I made along the way, note the method’s limitations, and consider implications for use in literacy studies and in other fields.