Generating Empirically Grounded Typology from Narrative Data

  • Victoria Semenova
Keywords: Empirically Grounded Typology, Biographical Research, Narrative Analysis.



Abstract. The paper is devoted to the methodological aspects of the analytical interpretation of qualitative data as the process of constructing an empirically grounded typology from the textual information provided by biographical interviews. The main questions for discussion are how the researcher can generalize from individual data and what the step-by-step procedure of going “up” from empirical data is. The author argues for the possibilities of combining subjectivity and objectivity in this process, as well as the role of empirical, theoretical, and contextual knowledge in this process. An additional aspect to discuss is the procedure of interpretation of narrative texts and their use as the basis for constructing a typology. As a result, the author presents the entire procedure for constructing a grounded typology and illustrates it with the example of individual career strategy. Finally, the article debates the risks and advantages of the proposed research strategy.

The whole research strategy of constructing the models of social behavior from biographical data lies on theoretical concepts in the definite sphere. It starts from analyzing the style of storytelling in the frames of the biographical scheme, goes through several stages in search of the difference between groupings in order to understand and interpret the processes and conditions and develop relevant properties into dimensions, and, finally, combines subjective attitudes with objective data. As a result, we can construct different types of socially oriented individual behavior as motivation-action strategy.

As an example of such a methodological approach towards biographical data, for further analysis here is presented the example of a set of biographical interviews focused on professional behavior and the configuration of the careers of professionals in Russia. In an analytical sense, the information and its interpretation were oriented towards constructing a grounded typology of individual strategies as a combination of subjective and objective aspects of occupation career in times of social change. Here in this example I traced the two contrasting types of behavior patterns that reflect the socio-historical continuum and change in personal attributes as well as the change in wider social contexts from the “passing away type” to the “emerging type” with modified human resources that coincide with new tendencies in the labor market.

It seems that such a research strategy of constructing a “grounded” typology, with all its advantages and restrictions, could serve as a useful tool in both biographical and wider methods of qualitative research, wherever a researcher aims to analyze textual data in terms of subjectivity/objectivity argumentation and interpretation in order to construct models of action in specific social contexts.

The objective of the paper is achieved through the following scheme: 1. theoretical approaches and methodology towards subjective/objective typologies in biographical research; 2. an analytical model for constructing empirically grounded typologies; 3. an empirical step-by-step procedure for elaborating a typology from biographical data; 4. interpretation and some conclusions on typology-construction-oriented biographical research.