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Dictionary

Biographical method

ROBERT MILLER

The biographical method is the collection and analysis of an intensive account of a whole life or portion of a life, usually by an in-depth, unstructured interview. The account may be reinforced by semi-structured interviewing or personal documents. Rather than concentrating upon a ‘snapshot’ of an individual's present situation, the biographical approach emphasises the placement of the individual within a nexus of social connections, historical events and life experiences (the life history). An important sub-stream of the method focuses upon the manner in which the respondent actively constructs a narrative of their life in response to the social context at the time of interview (the life story). ‘The biographical perspective’ and the use of life histories as a method of social research has a long pedigree, stretching back to Thomas and Znanicki's highly influential The Polish Peasant in Europe and America (1918-20), which devoted a whole volume to the Credit ...

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