Mapping the Landscape of Qualitative Research on Intercultural Communication. A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Methodological Galaxy


  • Matthias Otten Fachhochschule Köln
  • Judith Geppert G-I-M Gesellschaft für innovative Marktforschung mbH



intercultural research, intercultural communication, reflexivity, methodology, generalization


An exploration of the interdisciplinary field of intercultural communication reveals both very inspiring thoughts and instruments to analyze culture in human interaction, and a confusing diversity of methods and arguments to deal with. In this article a "conceptual metaphor" (LAKOFF & JOHNSON, 1980) of exploring unknown territories and spaces is proposed for establishing a heuristic frame to maneuver through a rapidly expanding "galaxy" of research on intercultural communication. The aim is to provide a general framework to assess the methodological coherence of empirical studies on intercultural communication, as well as their relative position in the wider field of qualitative social research methodologies. Three dimensions will be discussed: 1) The theoretical question of the underlying cultural concept of a research project, 2) the methodical question of the basic research design and modes of analysis, and 3) the question of generalizations drawn from the empirical findings. These dimensions constitute what we call a methodological galaxy in which current trends and developments of the field of intercultural communication can be located and traced. The suggested framework may serve as a guiding "compass," using a set of "etic" parameters for navigation while respecting the "emic" nature of qualitative approaches. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0901520


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Author Biographies

Matthias Otten, Fachhochschule Köln

Matthias OTTEN, Dr. phil, is a sociologist and researcher at the Department of Intercultural Education, University of Koblenz-Landau (Campus Landau) in Germany. His research interests include intercultural communication theory, the development of intercultural competence, internationalization of higher education institutions and migration research. He has edited several thematic issues of international journals (Journal of Studies in International Education; Intercultural Education) and he is co-editor of the publication series Beiträge zur interkulturellen Zusammenarbeit for SIETAR Deutschland (Society for Intercultural Education Training and Research).

Judith Geppert, G-I-M Gesellschaft für innovative Marktforschung mbH

Judith GEPPERT, social scientist, worked at the Department of Intercultural Education, University Koblenz-Landau. She assisted in the research project "qualitative methods in intercultural communication" and finished her master-thesis on that subject last year. She is currently working for a market research enterprise in the area of qualitative method development.




How to Cite

Otten, M., & Geppert, J. (2009). Mapping the Landscape of Qualitative Research on Intercultural Communication. A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Methodological Galaxy. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 10(1).



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