Review Essay: The New Complexity: Encyclopedias, Glossaries and Dictionaries on Qualitative Research


  • Günter Mey University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal



encyclopedia, glossary, dictionary, Wikipedia, grounded theory methodology, qualitative research, qualitative methods, epistemology


A new genre—glossaries and dictionaries on qualitative research—has started to enter the Anglo-American publishing market. Following Thomas A. SCHWANDT's Dictionary of Qualitative Inquiry, published for the first time in 1997 and now available in a 3rd edition, two new books have appeared: The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods, edited by Victor JUPP, and Keywords in Qualitative Research, written by Michael BLOOR and Fiona WOOD. Similar volumes are in the pipeline, such as The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods, edited by Lisa M. GIVEN, which is to be published in spring 2008. In face of the diversification of qualitative research, such a development is not surprising: encyclopedias, glossaries and dictionaries promise a quick overview of an increasingly complex research area. Yet it is surprising that although more than 600 terms and concepts are defined and discussed in the books mentioned above, there is only a small group of about 30 terms common to all of them. Even for this common denominator descriptions are divergent and there is little overlap of the references provided for further reading in relation to each term. In this regard qualitative research seems to be something it is hard for encyclopedic endeavors to grasp. A further comparison of the English books with the only one currently available in German reveals the impact of language and national barriers: many terms familiar to at least some sections of the German qualitative research community do not exist at all in the English-language texts. The books discussed in this essay offer an overview but do not really do justice to the complexity and diversity of the research field. To purchase just one of them would bring only partial success to those hoping for a comprehensive overview of the field of qualitative research. And whether such fixed—print—reference guides will be attractive outside of libraries when the Internet, including Wikipedia and similar endeavors, is widely available remains to be seen. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs080258


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Author Biography

Günter Mey, University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal

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How to Cite

Mey, G. (2008). Review Essay: The New Complexity: Encyclopedias, Glossaries and Dictionaries on Qualitative Research. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 9(2).

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