Abrupt changes in research content are of interest to innovation research because many innovations in general and scientific innovations in particular emerge from such changes. However, investigations of innovations emerging from research processes face the problem that the initial change of direction in research by one or few researchers is an elusive phenomenon. The method presented in this article contributes to solving this problem by supporting the in-depth analysis of individual research biographies and of the emergence of new directions of research in these. The method employs bibliometric tools for a reconstruction of individual cognitive careers, embeds these reconstructions in qualitative studies of research biographies, and provides opportunities to link cognitive careers to the dynamics of scientific fields. As we will demonstrate, the method is generic in that it supports not only the investigation of scientific innovations but also, more generally, the identification of thematic change in individual cognitive careers. Two applications in qualitative research projects illustrate the potential of the method.