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34.1 - Linking Theory

Special Issue
Mixed Issue
HSR Vol. 34 (2009) No. 1: Special Issue: Linking Theory

Nina Baur (Ed.): Linking Theory and Data


Theory and data are closely linked in empirical research: Data are the main source for building and testing theories, and without theoretical focus, it is impossible to select and interpret data. Still, the relationship between theory and data is only rarely discussed and, if so, only on a general level. Focussing on process-oriented and longitudinal research questions, the authors of this special issue contribute to this discussion by elaborating some data types that can be used for analyzing long-term social processes.

For each specific data type, it is important to ask about their specific characteristics and how this effects interpretation. What are the advantages and disadvantages of this data type? For which kind of theoretical and thematical research question are these data suitable? Where and how can these data be sampled and collected? What specific problems in sampling, interpretation and validity do arise in longitudinal research, and how can they be solved?

The contributors address these questions from a broad range of theories (as different as Rational Choice Theory, Figurational Sociology, Biographical Research, Discourse Theory and Cultural Theories) and by either re-analyzing research-elicited data (e.g. interviews, surveys) or by using process-generated data (e.g. ego-documents, popular literature, military records, genealogies, newspapers, television commercials and web-based process-generated data).