Search Criteria & Project Codes

The MIT DocuBase, one of the inspirations for this project, promotes its utility as “bringing order to complexity.”  In the same way, a primary aim of Stories That Work is to bring order to the unruly practice of personal storytelling for organizational and cause-based purposes, by raising awareness about the different ways to approach storytelling projects.

To this end, every story collection entered into this database is coded along five key variables, and tagged with additional terms that characterize the nature of the particular collection. These codes are described here.

Key Issue identifies the topic of the stories in the collection, which is typically also the mission of the organization or cause that has sponsored the collection. An initial set of categories was derived from the NTEE short codes, and several other categories were added to ensure that an appropriate key issue code could be assigned to all stories. There are eleven possible key issue codes, and some story collections are assigned multiple codes:

  • Advocacy projects or organizations have an explicit aim to change policy through advocacy efforts (advocacy is primary to providing services).
  • Arts, Culture projects or organizations have a primary concern with arts, culture, or humanities.
  • Education projects or organizations have a primary concern with education.
  • Environment projects or organizations have a primary concern with environmental issues, such as resource use and conservation, climate change, animal well-being, etc.
  • Gender, Sexuality projects or organizations have a primary concern with issues related to gender or sexuality, including LGBT and women’s issues.
  • Health projects or organizations have a primary concern with health, and may include outreach around particular diseases or health and wellness issues.
  • Human Services projects or organizations may include large organizations like the YMCA, Red Cross, or Salvation Army, or smaller social services organizations that provide family services.
  • Religion projects and organizations include any organization that forefronts issues of religion or spirituality.
  • Youth projects or organizations focus on youth development outside of a traditional school setting (e.g., clubs, after-school organizations, youth sports leagues).

The Who’s Featured category describes whose personal stories are told in a collection’s stories. There are four possibilities:

  • Affiliated Issue Stakeholders are people who are in some way affiliated with the organization that is sponsoring the story project (e.g., members of a church or cultural institution; alumni of a school or program; parents of clients; staff of collaborating institutions). As stakeholders, they have a direct interest in the issue addressed by the project or organization.
  • Organization Clients are those who receive services from an organization that has sponsored or hosts the stories.
  • Organization Staff work for a project or an organization that has sponsored or hosts the stories.
  • Unaffiliated Issue Stakeholders are people who are unaffiliated with the organization that is sponsoring the story project, but who have a direct interest in the issue addressed by the project or organization (e.g., person-on-the-street, unknown person invested in issue).

Story Type categorizes the voice, structure, and detail with which stories are told. There are five possibilities:

  • Digital Stories are a genre popularized by the Center for Digital Storytelling. Digital stories have a scripted voiceover, typically read by the storyteller, and feature traditional story elements such as scenes, suspense, and a ‘moral’ or ‘lesson’ at the end
  • Glimpses are short texts that give a sense of personal presence, but which lack the detail of all of the other story types. A personal photograph with a quote, for example, would count as a glimpse.
  • Profiles are stories about individuals that are collected and told by someone else. They use the third-person narration, and tend to feel less ‘story-like’ than digital stories or short documentaries.
  • Short Documentaries are stories about a person that put more attention than the other story types into developing the context around the person/people at the center of the story.
  • Testimonials typically have about the same level of detail as profiles, with the difference being that testimonials are told in the first-person “I” or “Me” voice. While digital stories are also told in the first-person voice, testimonials do not have as much plot development.

Mode categorizes the digital mode that a collection’s stories are told through, and can include one or more of the following: Audio Recordings, Audio/Photo slideshows, Text with Photo(s), or Videos.

Production Method describes how the stories in a collection were produced, and includes the following four possibilities:

  • Facilitated stories are made with the assistance of a professional or trained facilitator.
  • Made by Staff stories are created and/or shaped by an organization’s staff members, typically their communication staff, though in some cases, other types of staff.
  • Professionally Produced stories are made by an expert in media production, such as a production company or trained producer.
  • User-Submitted stories are gathered by an online call to submit stories. They are typically posted unedited or with minimal editing.

In addition to these primary codes, tags under the broad category of “Special Characteristics” are assigned to some story collections. The following special characteristics are used in the database:

  • An Immersive Interface is a way of presenting an online collection of stories so that the viewer is encouraged to immerse themselves in a set of stories, much like watching a film or playing a video game.
  • Large Collections include more than 20 stories.
  • Story collections with an Online Community allow visitors to the collection to create a login account, comment on stories, and take other actions typical of online communities.
  • Stories with Related Resources include, in close proximity to the stories or individual stories, downloadable or clickable resources.
  • The stories in Shareable collections are enabled for social sharing, either by a share button or by being hosted on a shareable platform, such as YouTube, Vimeo, or SoundCloud.
  • Sortable collections allow users to conduct refined searches to find stories by theme, location, etc. Collections with basic sortability options—by date, mode, and/or by popularity—were not tagged with this code.