Chair in Qualitative Empirical Research Methods

The Ancient Greek origins of the English word “method” (μέθοδος) indicate the idea of a ‘way’. Therefore, social science research methods constitute a way from a research question to a research answer. Methodology as the scientific sub-discipline of methods discusses how these ways can look alike. Since this usually depends on the type of questions we ask (and also on the types of answers we expect), there cannot be a ‘one size fits it all’ recipe. We understand methods as question-guided ways which reduce the complexity of social and political reality and make the world surrounding us available for researchers.

There are many (contested) understandings as to what can be understood as ‘qualitative methods’. While we favor a pluralistic and question / data-oriented approach, we also acknowledge that qualitative methods are especially characterized by their referring to case properties. For our own research and teaching we prefer those techniques which use empirically observable data and analyze them systematically.

We place special emphasis on set-theoretic methods and here on Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA). We understand QCA both as a research design and as an analytical technique. However, QCA is just one approach among many. Our view on methods is broad and pluralistic. Nevertheless, we always emphasize transparency, replicability and analytical rigor.

When teaching methods, we try to combine the two goals of transporting knowledge about different methods and techniques with an awareness of design questions and the implications thereof. Whenever possible, we teach methods in respect to their application. While we always try to enhance the students’ individual gifts and interests, we also hold that this cannot be reached without basic common knowledge. This is even more important with regard to methods.

It is rather difficult in a mass university system such as ours to work with students as we would like to. However, we try to offer regularly smaller courses and seminars (also paying the price to balance this with really large courses), in order to ensure a good contact between those teaching and those being taught – note that instructors and students can be teachers and learners at the same time: learning is based on communicating.

From a substantial point of view, we work on questions of Comparative Politics and Policy Analysis, including topics from Political Sociology and Macro-Sociology. Prof. Wagemann is a member of the institute for political science and associated to the institute of sociology.

Next to a professional understanding of science, we deem an international scientific world as particularly important. We offer courses in English and invite students with an international biography to study with us. We have numerous scientific contacts outside of Germany. Since Prof. Wagemann worked abroad for more than ten years, we have many institutionalized contacts in Italy and the United States.