RN20 - Qualitative Methods

RN coordinator:

Katarina Jacobsson, Lund University, Sweden



Today, qualitative research is firmly established in sociology and other social science disciplines. Over the past years, the ESA Research Network Qualitative Methods has established a European platform for researchers rooted in diverse methodological traditions. RN 20 has gathered a large number of scholars and leading experts in the field to discuss cutting edge issues in qualitative research. It has created firm ties among qualitative researchers in a large number or European countries and maintains close relations with scholars in other world regions. For Prague 2015, we invite papers dealing with all aspects of founding theories, methodology and practice of qualitative research. We are particularly interested in presentations related to the conference theme. Qualitative researchers often study the nature and the consequences of differences and inequality. What new or traditional methods and research strategies are suitable for studying difference and inequality?

Paper proposals should include either reports on substantial research, methodological reflection or theoretical discussions concerning the grounding of qualitative research. Proposals can be allocated to the following sessions. In addition, we welcome papers to other areas not included in this call, which will later be assigned to further sessions.

Your paper may also address one of the following areas (please indicate):

• Methods for studying visual data (still images and film) • Discourse analysis and critical discourse analysis • Qualitative research and sociological theory • Studying social situations, social scenes and social worlds • Evaluating qualitative research and qualitative evaluation methods • Contemporary ethnography • Grounded theory research • Ethnomethodology and conversation analysis • Comparative qualitative research • Gender in qualitative research • Interview and focus group research • Documentary and textual analysis • Combining qualitative and quantitative research • Applied qualitative research • Archiving qualitative data • Innovations in qualitative methods • Other topics associated with qualitative research (Open call)


1.  General session


2.  Sociological imagination in qualitative research

Gerben Moerman gmoerman(at)uva.nl

Since Mills criticises abstract empiricism in “The Sociological Imagination” in 1959, many authors equate sociological imagination and especially intellectual craftsmanship with qualitative research, but is it? Given the current monetary constraints for research, ethical boards application for grants and trends in using computer assisted qualitative analysis, the importance of protocols seem to be increasing. Does this mean that rigour is increasing, or does this mean that the craftsmanship is smothered by bureaucracy? Are current qualitative methodologists intellectual craftsmen in Mills sense, or have they become technical abstracted empiricists? Or is there a middle-way?


3. Exploring local knowledge

Anne Ryen Anne.Ryen(at)uia.no and Paul Atkinson AtkinsonPA(at)cardiff.ac.uk

This session calls for papers concerned with the old question of how to study or explore knowledge or ways of knowing in local contexts. Lately we have observed that research has become more international or global, migration and circular migration continue, we get more multi-cultural and – ethnic communities, and in qualitative research we see new streams such as indigenous research and different action oriented ways. We welcome theoretical and empirical contributions to revitalize the old question:  How to study local contexts across cultures and ethnicities? 


4. Qualitative interviewing and power

Tea Torbenfeldt Bengtsson TB(at)soc.ku.dk and Lars Fynbo lf(at)soc.ku.dk

Qualitative researchers have long been occupied with how power relations between interviewers and interviewees structure qualitative interviews. In this session the role of power is revisited and hopefully twisted in new ways to explore how power in qualitative interviewing affects data generation and qualitative analysis as such. In qualitative interviewing, power is exercised in various ways. It is part of the manifestation of the role of the interviewer (for instance, as an “expert”), it enables interviewees to choose how to relate to particular questions (and how not to relate to particular questions), and it is embedded in the interview situation as such; i.e., interview power depends on social interaction, specific settings and space and time. For this session, we invite theoretically informed and/or empirically founded explorations and discussions of what power is, how it manifests and how it enacts during a qualitative interview. For example: Is power important for qualitative researchers—and, if so, how can we understand “power” in relation to qualitative interviewing? Can we approach a theoretical perspective as a power relation—and, if so, how may such a conception impact on our qualitative analysis? What are the empirical implications of actively addressing power? To address these and other questions, this session invites papers that rethink existing paradigms of power, strategic frameworks and qualitative methodologies, including papers addressing qualitative ethics, politics and power performances beyond the social sciences.



5. Ethnography and the study of situations

David Wästerfors david.wasterfors(at)soc.lu.se

Ethnography is often associated with close and detailed descriptions of a particular social setting or a culture (as in Geertz' expression 'thick description'). Ethnography's background in anthropology and its classic ambition to uncover 'the others' have in this respect left a significant mark. There is however also a fairly strong tradition of using ethnography to study situations, as for instance how to smoke marijuana (Howard S. Becker) or how car drivers get angry (Jack Katz). Observations, interviews and other ways to collect ethnographic data may in other words be used to explain more precise and delimited social phenomena than a whole setting or culture, and the researcher can argue that the situation at issue is similar to situations in other settings. In this session we invite participants to discuss and report on studies in which situations are investigated ethnographically, both in terms of findings and methodology. What techniques were developed in order to get close to the situation at issue, and how did this situation get attended to and analytically crystallized in the first place? Also conceptual questions are encouraged, such as: What is a situation? 


6. Studying documents and documenting practices

Katarina Jacobsson katarina.jacobsson(at)soch.lu.se

To a large extent, the everyday work of practically any professional is characterized by paperwork,  especially in the human service sector. Professionals (or their clients, customers, patients, students etc.) spend a great amount of time on filling in, writing, and reading forms and documents or talking about how to fill in, write, and read forms and documents. But how can these documenting practices be captured and not reduced to (just) analyses of the documents per se? In this session, we encourage papers on the study of documents for their use and function more than their content and form (as suggested by Lindsay Prior among others). Which methods and materials may be used? Which are the methodological and analytical challenges?


7. Field access: The case of hard to reach groups

Uwe Flick uwe.flick(at)fu-berlin.de and Andreas Hirseland 

In this session experience with accessing hard to reach groups will be discussed, the problems and ways of finding this access. Hard to reach groups can be migrants, vulnerable people, groups suffering from consequences social inequality or in specific social or health related situations. In this session, methodological papers and reports about ways of finding access, about the role of gatekeepers and institutions in this context and the like are welcome.


1. Joint session with RN33 Gender and RN20 Qualitative Research:

Qualitative Enquiries into Femicide and Culture

Anne Ryen Anne.Ryen(at)uia.no and Shalva Weil shalva.weil(at)mail.huji.ac.il

Femicide is a leading cause of premature death for women globally, distinct from homicide and other forms of gender violence. The European COST Action IS1206 on femicide is the first pan-European coalition or programme on this topic.  This session targets femicide related to culture. Since this session is a collaboration between RN33 Gender and RN20 Qualitative Research, we invite papers on femicide from a gender perspective, or different ways that we may use qualitative research to explore this delicate topic. This is a rather new area of research so we invite theoretical as well as empirical contributions on the killing of women because they are women. 


2. Joint session with RN20 Qualitative Methods and RN 34 Sociology of Religion

Qualitative Research on Religion from a Perspective of Social Inequality and Difference

Heidemarie Winkel heidemarie.winkel(at)mailbox.tu-dresden.de and Bernt Schnettler schnettler(at)uni-bayreuth.de

We call for papers concerned with methodic questions and methodological insights arising from the study of religions in a perspective of social inequality and difference. Related questions are e.g.: Are there field-specific problems pursuant to qualitative methods? Which methods can be recommended for the empirical analyses of micro-macro issues in understanding religion and religious inequality? We are especially interested in papers on empirical findings in the sociology of religion using qualitative research methods in combination with methodological reflections.


3. Joint session with RN20 Qualitative Methods and RN11 Sociology of Emotions

Researching emotions empirically – qualitative methodologies

Stina Bergman Blix Stina.BergmanBlix(at)sociology.su.se and Malin Åkerström malin.akerstrom(at)soc.lu.se

We want to continue the thread from several previous meetings and conferences and ask how emotions can be researched empirically. This remains an emerging subfield of the sociology of emotions. In this joint session, we want to focus on qualitative research methods. Possible issues include but are not limited to: inquiry and debate about how emotions function in the research process; how to analyse emotions in empirical data; how to gather relevant data; how to device methodologies for specific theoretical concepts, etc.


4. Joint session with RN20 Qualitative Methods and RN28 Society and Sports

The body and embodiment in sport – studies on beyond discursive knowledge

Honorata Jakubowska jakubowska.honorata(at)gmail.com and Christoph Maeder christoph.maeder(at)phtg.ch

In the sociology of sport, instead of the meaning of beyond discursive knowledge (embodied, tacit, sensory, situated knowledge) in the sports field, this kind of knowledge is marginalized. Learning of running, swimming or fighting is based on discursive knowledge, but at the same time - in the significant part - on beyond discursive knowledge. One can say - 'hit dynamically', 'catch tightly', but, without a doubt, it is easier to show how to do it. How to teach a swimmer 'feel the water'? Is it possible to do this by using verbal message?

The aim of this session is to examine, explore and discuss the transmission of beyond discursive knowledge in sport. At the same time, the session has an epistemological and methodological importance - it can show what is possible to study by sociologists and whether and to what extent the beyond discursive knowledge is cognizable.

The proposed issues are:

  • the different form of transmission of beyond discursive knowledge, the barriers in this transmission
  • the possibilities to study beyond discursive knowledge
  • the relations between transmission of discursive and beyond discursive knowledge, the boundaries of discursive transmission of knowledge
  • gender context/determinants in the process of transmission beyond discursive knowledge
  • the role of beyond discursive knowledge in reproduction of gender inequalities


Notes for authors

Authors are invited to submit their abstract either to the general session or any specific session. Please submit only to one session. After abstract evaluation, coordinators will have the chance to transfer papers between sessions where applicable.

Abstracts should not exceed 250 words. Each paper session will have the duration of 1.5 hours. Normally sessions will include 4 papers.

Abstracts must be submitted online to the submission platform, see below. Abstracts sent by email cannot be accepted. Abstracts will be peer-reviewed and selected for presentation by the Research Network; the letter of notification will be sent by the conference software system in early April 2015.

Abstract submission deadline (extended):                                                                                                15th February 2015

Abstract submission platform:                                                                                          www.esa12thconference.eu

If you have further questions on the conference, please visit the conference website. For further information on the Research Network, please visit www.europeansociology.org.