Between Life Story and Life History. Contextualizing Biographical Narrative Interviews With Questionnaire Data


  • Piotr Filipkowski Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Danuta Zyczynska-Ciolek Polish Academy of Sciences



biographical method, biographical case study, reusing survey data, advanced mixed methods designs, data integration, research styles


Within sociology, there are many different research styles, and a multiplicity of methods. Opinions are divided on feasibility, sensibility, and the appropriate ways of combining them, especially at the level of data rather than conclusions. As for contemporary biographical methods, some of exponents (e.g., ROSENTHAL, 1995) have postulated that an interviewee's life story should be compared to the actual course of the life in question (i.e., the life history). Researchers, however, rarely have access to data beyond narratives.

In this article, we look to outline intra-sociological splits in order to provide background and context for two biographical narrative interviews which have been conducted with long-standing respondents to the Polish Panel Survey (POLPAN). These interviews, in turn, will be juxtaposed with the data derived from survey interviews, a valuable source of additional information about the interviewees, at least in some areas. Finally, we reflect on the potential benefits of such comparisons not only for proponents of the biographical methods but also for survey researchers. We draw on some of our methodological and theoretical considerations previously published in Polish.


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Author Biographies

Piotr Filipkowski, Polish Academy of Sciences

Piotr FILIPKOWSKI is a sociologist, an assistant professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences, where he is also the head of the Qualitative Data Archive. He is engaged in various historical and sociological research projects devoted to biographical experiences and memories of the war, socialist modernization, and capitalist transformation in Poland and Eastern Europe. Furthermore, he is interested in the theories and methodologies related to social research.

Danuta Zyczynska-Ciolek, Polish Academy of Sciences

Danuta ŻYCZYŃSKA-CIOŁEK is a sociologist, an assistant professor at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. Her research interests include biographical approaches in sociology, the sociology of poverty, social data archiving, and methodologies of the social sciences.


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How to Cite

Filipkowski, P., & Zyczynska-Ciolek, D. (2023). Between Life Story and Life History. Contextualizing Biographical Narrative Interviews With Questionnaire Data. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 24(3).



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