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Methods of Social Research

The research area’s main research field is the advancement of qualitative and quantitative methods of social research and evaluation. Our research is inspired by neighbouring disciplines such as mathematics, computer sciences and geodesy in quantitative methods and historical and cultural sciences in qualitative research. Our research mainly takes the forms of methodological experiments within on-going research projects. Due to the topics the School VI, the Department of Sociology and we ourselves are doing research on, our focus currently lies on advancing methods in spatial sociology, economic sociology and innovation research. We specifically work in the following topics:


•  Mixed Methods Research (MMR)
    (including Methods of Interdisciplinary Research)
•  Methods of Process Sociology and Innovation Research
    (including Methods of Longitidunal Research and Historical Sociology)
•  Spatial Methods
    (including Methods of Crossregional and Crosscultural Research)
•  Methods of Evaluation Research
•  Markets and Methods
•  Methods of Gender Research
•  Process-Produced Data
    (including Visual Data and Social Bookkeeping Data)
•  Sampling and Nonresponse
•  Scaling Procedures

Social Processes – Innovations – Risks

Our second research field is process sociology. Some of the questions we ask are: Which methods are appropriate for analyzing social patterns and processes (“Verlaufsmuster”)? How are social processes, innovations and risks connected? How do innovation processes work in different fields (e.g. science, the economy)? How can they be organized and which risks come from innovations? How do actors handle social change, innovations and risks? We currently specifically investigate the following topics:

•    Inno-Kolleg
     “Innovation Society Today. The Reflexive Production of the New”.
     Graduate College at the Department of Sociology of Technical University
     Berlin, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
•   New Forms of Organizing Science
     Project C in the project network “genderDynamics. Case Studies on the
     Co-Evolution of Scientific Cultures and Organizational Forms in Science
     in Physics” (genderDynamiken), funded by the German Federal Ministry of
     Education and Research (BMBF)
•   Risk Perception and Behaviour
     Part of the project network “Anthropogenic Micropollutants and
     Pathogenic Organisms in Urban Water Cylces” (“ASKURIS ”), funded by
     the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
•    SIEU („Sociological Inquiry and Evaluation of UniCat”)
     Project in the Excellence Cluster “UniCat” (“Unifying Concepts in
     Catalysis”), funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG).
•    Methods of Process Sociology and Innovation Research
     (including Methods of Longitidunal Research and Historical Sociology)
•    Process-Produced Data
     (including Visual Data and Social Bookkeeping Data)

Spatial Sociology

Analyzing Cities, Regions and Space has a long tradition within sociology. Newer theoretical concepts point out that space is always socially constructed: People differ in their ways of thinking about and visualizing space, of using space and of (re)producing space. In our research, we are exploring how these processes work and how to grasp them methodologically. We currently focus on the following topics:

•    Spatial Methods
     (including Methods of Crossregional and Crosscultural Research)
•    Using Maps for Orientation and Interaction in Space
•    Spatial Arrangements – Appropriation of Space – Orientating
     within Space
     On a Sociology of the Constitution of Space
•    Economic Practices
     (“Local Conventions of Hairdressing. Intrinsic Logic of Cities
     and Economics of Convention”), part of the research group
     “Intrinsic Logic of Cities”, funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)


Market Sociology

The economy of capitalist societies can be grasped as a system of several interwoven (sub-)markets (e.g. labour markets, financial markets, producer goods market and consumer markets). However, single markets (e.g. the hairdresser or water market) are not entities per se. In contrast, suppliers, producers, distributors and consumers exchange goods and services for money along the supply chain. The actors within each of these groups of actors compete with each other. Other actors on modern markets are employees, political actors and the media. From this point of view, modern (mass) markets are long and complex chains of interdependency of individual and collective actors. We therefore assume that real markets are socially constructed, socially structured and vary historically and culturally – it is an important research task to investigate the dynamics and mechanisms of specific markets.

If one changes the perspective from markets to individual actors, it becomes clear that individuals are mainly connected to the economy via two types of markets: labour markets (in order to earn money) and consumer markets (in order to exchange money for goods and services). The labour market thus is one (if not the) most important way of allocation in modern societies and influences peoples life changes in almost every sphere of daily life. It thus also links social structure and economy via the system of collective bargaining, the welfare state and the educational system. In most industrial countries, universities and science strongly influence individual careers and future labour market chances.

Using this framework, we currently focus on the following research topics:

•    Markets and Methods
•    Economic Practices
      (“Local Conventions of Hairdressing. Intrinsic
      Logic of Cities and Economics of Convention”),
      part of the research group “Intrinsic Logic of Cities”,
      funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG)
•    Risk Perception and Behaviour
      Part of the project network “Anthropogenic
      Micropollutants and Pathogenic Organisms in Urban Water
      Cylces” (“ASKURIS ”), funded by the German Federal
      Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
•    SIEU („Sociological Inquiry and Evaluation of UniCat”)
      Project in the Excellence Cluster “UniCat ” (“Unifying
      Concepts in Catalysis”), funded by the German Research
      Foundation (DFG).
•    New Forms of Organizing Science
      Project C in the project network “genderDynamics. Case
      Studies on the Co-Evolution of Scientific Cultures and
      Organizational Forms in Science in Physics” (genderDynamiken),
      funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research
      (BMBF)

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