A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition
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A Handbook of Comparative Social Policy, Second Edition

Edited by Patricia Kennett

The current context of social policy is one in which many of the old certainties of the past have been eroded. The predominantly inward-looking, domestic preoccupation of social policy has made way for a more integrated, international and outward approach to analysis which looks beyond the boundaries of the state. It is in this context that this Handbook brings together the work of key commentators in the field of comparative analysis in order to provide comprehensive coverage of contemporary debates and issues in cross-national social policy research.
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Chapter 13: Cross-national qualitative research methods: innovations in the new millennium

Steen Mangen


This chapter investigates some of the most significant innovative developments in the past decade in qualitative methods that cross cultures and languages. As in the first edition, the research addressed is largely confined to the European Union and mostly published in the last five or so years. Necessarily selective, it reviews recent literature on problems and resolutions for managing cross-national investigative frameworks and contributions that have been concerned with the management of multi-lingual data. After a brief review of well-established methods of data collection it examines innovations exploiting the near limitless possibilities of web-based and electronic sources, as well as a stable of qualitative strategies derived from set theoretic methods that are arguably the most important – and certainly some of the most debated – of recent years. Defining the cross-national is less problematic than delimiting the qualitative. The former is not a method per se but an approach that incorporates cross-cultural space and, often, time. However, qualitative research cannot simply be defined as the non-numerical, although much of this research deals with spoken, written or visual material. Over 20 years ago Howe (1988), in an influential paper, dismissed a rigid positivist–interpretivist cleavage as redundant in what some were seeing as a ‘post-positivist turn’.

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