This is the first of two articles describing a reflective analysis of the Occupational Profiles published in the Journal of Occupational Science. This first article discusses the background to, and reasons for undertaking the analysis at this point in time as well as describing the strategies used in analysing the narrative data within the profiles. This background includes a description of the relevant background of the authors as profile interviewers. Additionally, a demographic overview of the profilees is presented alongside some general findings and narrative extracts that support these. The second article will follow with specific findings drawn from the narrative data, and link these to concepts within the related occupational literature. © 1999, Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All rights reserved.