Sociological Research Online 15(4) pp 36-46

During the course of this paper we mobilise an ideal typical framework that identifies three waves of reduction within contemporary qualitative inquiry as they relate to key aspects of the sociological tradition. The paper begins with a consideration of one of sociology’s key questions; namely how is social organisation possible? The paper aims to demonstrate how this question moves from view as increased specialisation and differentiation in qualitative methodology within sociology and related disciplines results in a fragmentation and decontextualisation of social practices from social orders. Indeed, the extent to which qualitative methods have been detached from sociological principles is considered in relation to the emergence of a reductionist tendency. The paper argues that the first wave is typified by conceptual couplings such as ‘discourse and the subject’, ‘narrative and experience’, ‘space and place’ and the second by ‘activity type couplings’ such as ‘walking and talking’ and ‘making and telling’ and then, finally, the third wave exemplified through auto-ethnography and digital lifelogging. We argue each of these three waves represent a series of steps in qualitative reduction that, whilst representing innovation, need to reconnect with questions of action, order and social organisation as a complex whole as opposed to disparate parts.