9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN20 Qualitative Methods

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Analysing Qualitative Data Building II, C2.01

Finding concepts beyond your plan

The transition from fieldwork to written analyses might be called a recurrent distress but also a very creative phase of research practice. The data collected are to be packaged into recognizable concepts in order to be presented to a wider audience that not necessarily is particularly interested in the investigated field but, more likely, in the researcher?s analytic and sociological points.

At this stage researchers quite often realize that their original plan does not fit with the material at hand. As Howard S. Becker writes in "Tricks of the Trade" students may be deeply dissatisfied with their data since their gaze upon them too rigidly are shaped by their original plan or expectations; Becker argues for the necessity of finding concepts retrospectively and by unconventional thinking.

This paper further explore this decisive methodological situation with the help of examples from the author?s experiences. When analyzing Swedish businessmen?s stories about bribes and corruption a new angle came to be constructed by using the concept of ?courtships?, and when analyzing observational data on interpersonal conflicts at a center for juvenile delinquents a similar re-energizing consequence seems to be realized by the concept ?play fights? (or ?play quarrels?), as well as by an alternative use of ?going concerns? (compared to Everett C. Hughes? original meaning).

The paper argues that constructing empirically fine-tuned concepts is a matter of practicing analytic induction on the basis of a sociological ontology. It also reflects upon what a concept is in qualitative research, and what specific rhetorical use that makes it sociological.