Qualitative Research in Sociology in Germany and the US—State of the Art, Differences and Developments

Uwe Flick


The background of this article is the observation that the methodological discussions about qualitative research in sociology in German-speaking and Anglo-Saxon contexts are quite different. The article gives an overview of the state of the art of qualitative research in terms of its methodological development and its establishment in the broader field of social research. After some brief remarks about the history of the field, the major research perspectives and schools of qualit­ative research—grounded theory, ethno­method­ol­ogy, narrative analysis, objective hermeneutic, life-world analysis, ethnography, cultural and gender studies—are outlined against the background of recent developments. The establishment of qualit­ative research is discussed with reference to the examples of the German and International Socio­logical Associations (DGS and ISA), to devel­op­ments in the area of textbooks, handbooks, and to the founding of specialised journals. Methodologi­cal trends such as the turn to visual and electronic data, triangulation of methods and the hybri­di­sa­tion of qualitative procedures, are discussed. In conclusion, some perspectives are outlined which are expected to become more important in the fu­ture of qualitative research or which are seen as demands for further clarification. Besides the use of computers and the further clarification on linking qualitative and quantitative research, and of the limits and problems of such linkage, further sug­gestions concerning the ways of presenting ap­pro­priate and at the same time compulsory criteria for qualitative research are mentioned. Trends in building schools and developing research prag­matics, on the one hand, and a tendency towards elucidation and mystification of methodological procedures, on the other hand, are identified as tensional fields in methodological discussions in qualitative research. Finally, a stronger inter­na­tionalisation in different directions and answering the question of indication are discussed as needs for the future of qualitative research.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0503230


qualitative research; methodology; methodological trends; quality criteria in qualitative research; indication of qualitative research

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Copyright (c) 2005 Uwe Flick

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