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The use of the life course perspective to study migration is of increasing interest in the field.A majority of the research on first- and second-generation residents is based on quantitative methodological designs that mainly focus on different aspects of their insertion into the host society.“A life story gives us a vantage point from which to see how one person experiences and understands life, his or her own especially, over time.
The aim of those studies is to understand people’s subjective evaluations of life events and trajectories.
We think that both approaches study two sides of the same coin.
For their part, studies based on the biographical approach focus more on the subjective selection of important life events and the subjective interpretation of life events and trajectories, mainly by using qualitative interviews.
This reconstruction of the life story during the interview is not based on a regular and chronological time scale but on a subjective time scale graduated by those events that the interviewee considered significant (Demazière ).
Nevertheless, each approach and its respective methodology allows us to study two different but complementary dimensions of life.
Life course studies generally use quantitative methodological tools (mainly standardized questionnaires and life event calendars) to obtain objective life events and objective trajectories of groups or cohorts based on a regular and chronological time scale in months or years.In this chapter, we develop a methodology to collect data on second-generation residents based on the combination of a life history calendar and in-depth biographical interviews.The first tool comes from the life course perspective, and the second comes from the biographical tradition.From a social psychology perspective, Barbeiro and Spini () use the LIVES history calendar and in-depth interviews to investigate the representations of justice and injustice perceived by Portuguese migrants in Switzerland.We add to this emerging literature by providing a detailed description of how our mixed-mode research design developed and was tested and implemented. , we introduce the biographical approach and life course perspective as well as develop common points between them.Researchers within the biographical approach focus their attention on “the interrelation between individual and society, and how broader perceptions and modes of thought are represented and monitored within the specific situation and outlook of individuals and groups” (Roberts : 34).They essentially analyze subjective biographical data about the individual’s entire existence, such as life stories or written biographies, whether about a short period of life or some specific dimensions of life.At the same time, our goal is to account for the methodological benefits of both tools, such as a more systematic process and increased validity of the “objective” life course data gathered by using life event calendars (Belli and Callegaro ) as well as in-depth exploration of subjective life stories obtained by using in-depth biographical interviews.To apply this idea, we tested and used the combination of semi-structured biographical interviews and the LIVES history calendar in studying the transition to adulthood of the children of Albanian-speaking immigrants in Switzerland.In the following part, we will briefly introduce the main steps in the development of the biographical and the life course approaches to outline the links and complementary elements between them as well as the respective methodological tools we use.Stories of fictitious or real people have long been part of human lives through oral and written history. The thinkers of that time developed the Socratic maieutic and used “bios” (life histories) to better “know thyself.” Later, a well-known example of a biography is the New Testament, written around the first and second century, which tells the life history of Jesus.