Two Styles of Biographical Research
Another way to proceed is the reverse. The researcher will first choose to focus and study a small piece of the mosaic (it was done e.g. with the artisanal bakery in France – a social world in H.S. Becker’s sense – or with the category of situation of poor lone mother in various European countries). Then s/he will, among other observation methods, collect life stories of differently-located actors (e.g. as bakery apprentice, bakery worker, baker, or bakers’ wife) as testimonies about their lived experiences in the bakery’s social world; or as lone mother in various European countries with diverse social rights systems, e.g. Sweden vs. Portugal). While interviewing, and later on analysing and comparing narratives, researcher will keep in mind the kind of socio-structural relations, recurrent configurations, generating mechanisms, logics of situations and logics of action, dynamics from conflicting interests, unwritten rules of games, recurring moves from given situations to resulting courses of actions, and other sociological features of the underlying fabric of the societal piece under study (social world or life situation). As such focused life stories get collected and analysed, recurrences will emerge from one to the other, leading testimonies to cross-check each other (thus solving the issue of their truth-value) and opening the door to first generalisations, to be critically examined and confirmed only after a search for “negative cases”.