Handbook of Research Methods in Migration
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Handbook of Research Methods in Migration

Edited by Carlos Vargas-Silva

Covering both qualitative and quantitative topics, the expert contributors in this Handbook explore fundamental issues of scientific logic, methodology and methods, through to practical applications of different techniques and approaches in migration research.
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Chapter 7: Collecting, Analysing and Presenting Migration Histories

Jørgen Carling


Jørgen Carling ‘Migration’ is often thought of as an aggregate flow of people from A to B. However, each individual in that flow has followed their own individual trajectory in time and space – possibly a rather complex one. Whether we are compiling information on a large number of people or trying to understand the experiences of a small group, we need to approach and digest those individual trajectories. This chapter addresses the collection, analysis and presentation of migration histories across different methodological approaches. The emphasis will be on the first of these steps: collecting information. However, I will show how information can be collected in different ways for different analytical purposes, and indicate how more specialized analysis might follow. Three forms of data collection will be addressed: conventional interviews, life history calendars and migration history charts. The presentation of migration histories in publications obviously depends on the analytical approach. What I will do here is to show how detailed family migration histories can be displayed and used as a complement to text, using either the migration history chart or the so-called Lexis diagram. 7.1 MIGRATION HISTORIES IN DIFFERENT METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES Migration research reflects the methodological diversity of the social sciences. The leading journals in the field publish a mixture of articles using qualitative and quantitative approaches, even if individual researchers are often methodologically specialized. Before going into the details of data collection, two hypothetical examples can serve to illustrate the different uses of migration histories. First, imagine a study...

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