Qualitative Life-grids: A proposed method for comparative European educational research

Andrea Abbas, Paul Ashwin, Monica Mclean

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Drawing upon their large three-year mixed-method study comparing four English university sociology departments, the authors demonstrate the benefits to be gained from concisely recording biographical stories on life-grids. They argue that life-grids have key benefits which are important for comparative European educational research. Some of these advantages are common to all biographical methods; for example, they facilitate: nuanced understandings of the impact of education policies in different national contexts; more complex depictions of cross-national and withincountry variation and similarity; theoretical and conceptual developments based upon commonality and difference across national boundaries; and insight into the relationship between the macro, meso and micro levels for case-based approaches. Life-grids also have the advantage of being less resourceintensive than recorded and transcribed biographical interviews. They are an easier method for researchers to use and comparative checks for quality are simple and can be ongoing. The data generated is more conducive to comparison and designing the life-grid ensures that cross-cultural understanding and dialogue between researchers is inbuilt. The physical act of co-producing life-grids with participants builds relationships and knowledge of participants' lives in ways that can be useful to other aspects of data collection.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)320-329
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Educational Research Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2013


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