Electronic Theses and Dissertations


Storytelling In TED Talks

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

M.A. in Modern Languages

First Advisor

Tamara Warhol

Second Advisor

Michael Raines

Third Advisor

Felice Coles


University of Mississippi

Relational Format



In this study, I explore the role of storytelling in the most-vieTED Talks, which are up to eighteen-minute speeches on various topics performed at conferences for non-experts and also accessible on the internet. The study aims to identify comnarrative structural patterns and functions in the sampled talks. The ten selected TED Talks are transcribed, coded, and analyzed using qualitative data analysis software. The qualitative interpretation of story structure is based on Labov’s diamond-shape model (1972), while Propp’s narratemes (1928) are used to investigate the complot development patterns in the sampled TED Talks. The features of the personal narratives are analyzed based on Ochs and Capps’ narrative dimensions (2001). The analysis revealed that the narratives present in all the sampled talks have a different degree of embeddedness in the TED Talk. The two comstructural patterns of the narratives used in a TED Talk are 'backbone' narratives that serve as a spine and relatively short embedded narratives. The most comscenario based on Propp’s narratemes has been identified as the following: the speaker is the protagonist who leaves on a mission (answer the research questions), faces challenges to prove their heroic qualities (such as professional skills, creative thinking, and perseverance), responds to the challenges faced, finds the answer to the research question, and, finally, often transforms personally and professionally. The stories within the sampled TED Talks perform the following functions: a framework of a talk (mainly TED Talks with a backbone structure), a self-introduction and/or a brief introduction to the topic, an illustration to strengthen a proposed argument that can precede or follow the thesis statement, or a joke. The findings demonstrate that TED Talks, while sharing comparable properties of academic discourse, represent a quasi-academic discourse by integrating more narrative elements and linguistic features in the talk.

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