School of Sociology and Social Policy

Timescapes: An ESRC Qualitative Longitudinal Initiative

What is QL Research

Qualitative Longitudinal (QL) research may be defined as qualitative enquiry that is conducted through or in relation to time. It is part of a rich ethnographic tradition that spans a diverse range of disciplines. Until recently QL methodologies were under-developed and datasets were scattered and unavailable for sharing. Over the past decade, however, the method has gained recognition as a distinctive way of knowing and understanding the social world, based on discerning the ‘interior logic’ of unfolding lives.

Researchers are routinely seeking to incorporate QL methods into their research design and a growing number of studies, ranging from the lived experience of welfare reform to the dynamics of transport and energy, are being funded by government, the funding councils and the main UK charities. This growth reflects a need to better understand the lived experience of change and continuity in the social world, the processes by which change occurs, and the agency of individuals in shaping or accommodating to these processes.

Understanding how and why change is created, lived and experienced is particularly important in policy contexts where the effectiveness of new policies or interventions needs to be assessed, or where individuals or organisations are required to change their practices or adapt to changing circumstances.

QL research is challenging, both methodologically and ethically, but yields compelling data about temporal processes. Further details can be found in our series of publications and Methods Guides Series.

Journeys Through Time: The Contours of Qualitative Longitudinal Research - Presentation by Bren Neale [PDF: 1.62MB]

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