Methods Workshop on June 15th and 17th: Documentary Method in Migration Research

The InZentIM warmly invites to the Methods Workshop


Documentary Method in Migration Research

Focus on Interpreting Interviews

Saturday, June 15th and Monday, June 17th, 2019, 09-18h

University of Duisburg-Essen, Campus Duisburg: LE 502


The Workshop is held and organized by InZentIM Board member Prof. Anja Weiß (UDE) and Prof. Nicolle Pfaff (UDE) in collaboration with Prof. Galya Ben-Arieh Ruffer (Northwestern University, USA).

Please find the Workhop Programme and further information here.



In the German language social sciences some qualitative research methods have evolved over decades that are not well published in the English language (for an overview see the multilingual open access journal Forum Qualitative Research). The documentary method builds on the sociology of knowledge as proposed by Karl Mannheim and developed into a large methodological school by Ralf Bohnsack. It is geared towards understanding how class specific, generation specific, migration specific, gendered, and other socially structured differences shape the habitual way in which we view the world—often in a manner implicit to our practices and cognitive patterns.

The method is very in-depth in looking not only at the content of what is said, but focusing on how people say and do things. It is efficient as it starts with systematic comparison early in the interpretive process. Results are mostly presented in the form of typologies, but also as case-comparative research.

For example, when researching discrimination, interviewees may say that they never experienced discrimination. When looking at how they talk about finding housing and jobs we may see differences in the strategies they use and the obstacles they see in finding access. With sampling strategies zooming in on these differences, we will be able to connect types of implicit practical orientations to social position, migration, class and gender status. For an elaborate example of this methodology in migration research, see (Nohl et al. 2014; Nohl/ Somel 2015). For English language introductory texts to the methods see the appendix in the aforementioned book and (Bohnsack 2014; Nohl 2010). For a German language introduction see Nohl (2017).

The two-day workshop will first introduce you to the method with a focus on practicing the method yourselves. It will then allow 4 researchers to discuss their material and results in the group. Please plan to spend some time on Sunday either reading other’s material and/or prepare your own analysis for discussion on Monday.

Prof. Dr. Anja Weiß has been using and teaching the documentary method for some decades. She is co-author of the Nohl et al. (2014) book on high skilled migration and has authored further publications on transnational research design (Weiß/ Nohl 2012). Her main research interests are in the sociology of high skilled migration, professional knowledge and in theorizing global inequalities.