Seeing things differently? The promise of qualitative longitudinal research on the third sector

Working paper 56

There has been a rapidly growing interest in longitudinal research methods and dynamic analysis in recent decades. A longitudinal research gaze offers the promise of seeing things differently, and of understanding the dynamic processes involved in social change, of what happens next and why. This paper explores the potential of qualitative longitudinal research for developing understanding of the dynamics of the third sector.

The Third Sector Research Centre has embarked upon a qualitative longitudinal study of third sector activities called ‘Real Times’. The paper sets out the thinking behind the study. As well as providing a basic description of the rationale, design and structure of ‘Real Times’, the paper discusses the methodological interest in qualitative longitudinal research in the third sector, the substantive contextual issues the third sector is experiencing as the study takes place, and some of the theoretical thinking involved in the study. In particular it discusses three theoretical ‘imaginings’ which inform the research: the different temporalities involved in the third sector; a ‘relational’ account of the third sector as a contested field; and lastly the idea of strategic action in context.

Research contact

Rob Macmillan

Working paper