Case Study Method Or Methodology Food

2. Biographical Research / Life History Research

Biographical research is an approach to research which elicits and analyses a person’s biography or life history. It consists of an extended, written account or narrative of a person’s life. Life History and biographical research is today often used interchangeably. Data are collected in form of narrative interviews.Of interest is the entire life story in terms of its genesis and how it is constructed in the present. The steps of data analysis involve thematic analysis, the reconstruction of the life history, a microanalysis of individual text segments, contrastive comparisons and the development of types and contrasting comparison of several cases. Rosenthal (2004) proposes a combination of methods to analyze biographical data. These are: objective hermeneutics (Oevermann et al. (1979, 1987), narrative analysis (Schütze, 1983) and themantic field analysis  (Fischer and Kohli, 1987). ATLAS.ti was for example used by Patrizi (2005) in a biographical study on Domestic Violence, Dictatorship and Democracy in Chile. Also Unger (2009), a student of Schütze, works with ATLAS.ti to support particular parts of the analysis process. Another example is the study by Gouthro (2009).


Further readings:

Roberts, Brian (2001). Biographical Research.Open University Press.

Rosenthal, Gabriele (2004) ‘Biographical Research’, in C. Seale, G. Gobo, J. F. Gubrium and D. Silverman (eds), Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage. pp. 48–64.

Oevermann, Ulrich; Allert, Tilman, Konau, Elisabeth and Jürgen Krambeck (1987). Structures of meaning and objective Hermeneutics. In: Volker Meja, Dieter Misgeld and MicoStehr (eds.) Modern German sociology. (European Perspectives: a Series in Social Thought and Cultural Ctiticism). New York: Columbia University Press, S. 436–447.

Oevermann, Ulrich et al. (1979). Die Methodologie einer objektiven Hermeneutik und ihre allgemeine forschungslogische Bedeutung in den Sozialwissenschaften, in Hans-Georg Soeffner (ed.), Interpretative Verfahren in den Sozial- und Textwissenschaften. Stuttgart: Metzler, pp. 352 – 434.

Schütze, Fritz (1983). Biographieforschung und narrative Interviews, Neue Praxis, 3: 283-93.

Fischer, Wolfram and Kohli, Martin (1987). Biographieforschung, in  W. Voges (ed.) Methoden der Biographie- und Lebenslaufforschung.Opladen: Lekse + Budrich, pp. 25 – 50.

Studies where ATLAS.ti was employed as a tool:

Gouthro, P.A. (2009) Life Histories of Canadian Women as Active Citizens: Implications for Policies and Practices in Adult Education. The Canadian Journal for the Study of Adult Education, 21(2), 19-36.

Patrizi, Patrizia (2005). Deviant Action and Self-Narration: A Qualitative Survey through ATLAS.ti. Journal of the Theory of Social Behaviour, Vol 25 (2), 171 -188.

Unger, Tim (2009). Anschluss verpasst? Plädoyer für eine berufsbildungstheoretische Aufarbeitung der biografieorientierten Bildungsforschung, in Karin Büchter, Jens Klusmeyerand Martin Kipp (eds.), Selbstverständnis der Disziplin Berufs- und Wirtschaftspädagogik, bwp@ Ausgabe Nr. 16 | Juni 2009 Available online: http://www.bwpat.de/ausgabe16/unger_bwpat16.pdf


A recent review has highlighted that the methodology most commonly employed to research social learning has been the individual case study. We draw on four examples of social learning research in the environmental and sustainability sciences from sub-Saharan Africa to reflect on possible reasons behind the preponderance of case study research in this field, and to identify common elements that may be significant for social learning research more generally. We find that a common interest in change oriented social learning, and therefore processes of change, makes case studies a necessary approach because long term process analyses are required that are sensitive to social-ecological contexts. Common elements of the examples reflected upon included: a focus on initiating, tracking and/or understanding a process of change toward sustainability; long term research; an action research agenda that involves reflecting on data with research participants; and temporal, process based analysis of data coupled with in-depth theoretical analysis. This paper highlights that there is significant scope for exploratory research that compares case studies of social learning research to generate a deeper understanding of social learning processes, and their relationship to human agency and societal change.

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