Summative Content Analysis as a Core Method to Reconstruct Subjective Theories Using Structure-Formation-Techniques

Katharina Kindermann


The Research Program Subjective Theories has for several decades been an integral part of qualitative social research in German-speaking countries. Nowadays, it is predominantly used in empirical educational research. Within the context of this research program, structure formation techniques were established as independent research methods. Structure formation techniques broadly work as follows. An interview is used to gain insights into the content of a subjective theory. These contents are recorded on concept cards and connected to one another. The result of this process is a structure map that serves as a visualization of the subjective theory and constitutes the central data source for follow-up analysis. Until today, however, structure formation techniques lack a clear methodical approach regarding the path from the interview to the concept cards. I intend to fill this gap. This contribution is based on my own research experience. I analyzed the subjective theories of primary school teachers regarding field trips to church. I argue that qualitative content analysis can be used to develop such a systematic approach. I therefore show the potential that a summarizing content analysis has for the research program subjective theories. At the same time, I illustrate the methodical consequences that arise from adapting content analysis to the context of structure formation techniques. Moreover, this can serve as inspiration for the further development of qualitative content analysis.


qualitative content analysis, summative content analysis; Research Program Subjective Theories; subjective theories; structure formation techniques; concept cards; empirical educational research; (primary) school pedagogy; out-of-school learning


Copyright (c) 2020 Katharina Kindermann

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