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Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis
Grounded Theory After the Interpretive Turn

Second Edition
Additional resources:

August 2017 | 464 pages | SAGE Publications, Inc
The Second Edition of Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory After the Interpretive Turn offers an innovative extension of grounded theory useful in qualitative research projects that draws on interviews, observations, and visual, narrative, and historical discourse materials. To engage the dense complexities of real world situations, Situational Analysis (SA) braids together Strauss's ecological social worlds/arenas theory, Foucault’s discourse analysis, and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes and assemblages. In SA, the situation itself becomes the fundamental unit of analysis. Using extensive examples, the authors discuss getting started, how to create three kinds of maps emphasizing differences and relationality (situational maps, social world/arena maps, and positional maps), the kinds of analytic work they accomplish, and how to write up the results centered on the distinctive strengths of the method. The book will serve as an invaluable resource for advanced undergraduate and graduate-level students, as well as professional researchers and consultants from diverse backgrounds pursuing qualitative projects.

List of Illustrations
Prologue to the Second Edition
What is Situational Analysis?  
Overview of the Second Edition  
Practical Developments  
How to Read and Use this Book  
About the Authors
Introduction to Part I
Chapter 1 • Situational Analysis: Grounded Theory Mapping After the Interpretive Turn
What Is Grounded Theory?  
A Genealogy of Grounded Theory and Situational Analysis  
The Interpretive Turn  
Grounds for a New Method  
Situational Maps and Analysis  
Reflections and Anticipations  
Chapter 2 • Methodological Grounds of Situational Analysis
Grounded Theory, Pragmatism, and Interactionism: A Theory/Methods Package  
Grounded Theory as Always Already Around the Interpretive Turn  
Grounded Theory as Recalcitrant Against the Interpretive Turn  
Pushing Grounded Theory Around the Interpretive Turn  
Reflections and Anticipations  
Chapter 3 • Theoretical Grounds of Situational Analysis
The ”(Re)Turn to the Social” Across Social Theory  
Pragmatist Interactionist Origins: From Chicago Ecologies to Social Worlds/Arenas  
New Grounds I: Foucault and the Pragmatist Interactionist Project  
New Grounds II: Taking the Nonhuman Explicitly Into Account  
New Grounds III: Deleuze and Guattari’s Rhizomes and Assemblages  
Assembling the Theoretical Grounds of Situational Analysis  
Introduction to Part II
Chapter 4 • Getting Started: Practical Issues and Project Design
The Three Kinds of Situational Analysis Maps  
Practical Issues in Getting Started  
Doing Situational Analysis Project Design  
Issues in Situational Analysis Project Design  
Technical Tools Supporting Situational Analysis  
Turning to Analysis  
Chapter 5 • Doing Situational and Relational Maps
Abstract Situational Maps  
Introducing the First Exemplar: Bone’s Project  
Situational Maps of Bone’s Project  
Doing Relational Analyses With Situational Maps  
Relational Maps of Bone’s Project  
Final Comments on Situational and Relational Maps  
Chapter 6 • Doing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps
What Are Social Worlds and Arenas?  
Why Are Social Worlds and Arenas Analytically Important?  
Introducing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps  
Social Worlds/Arenas Map of Bone’s Project  
Doing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps  
Memoing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps  
Using Social Worlds/Arenas Maps in Your Project  
Final Comments on Social Worlds/Arenas Maps  
Chapter 7 • Doing Positional Maps
Abstract Positional Maps  
Positional Maps of Bone’s Project  
Constructing Your Own Positional Maps  
Articulating and Acting Upon Absent Positions  
Why Are Positional Maps So Important?  
Final Comments on Positional Maps  
Chapter 8 • A Fully Worked Exemplar of Situational Analysis
Introducing Alonso-Yanez’s Project  
Alonso-Yanez’s Situational Maps  
Alonso-Yanez’s Relational Maps  
Alonso-Yanez’s Social Worlds/Arenas Map  
Alonso-Yanez’s Positional Maps  
Provisional Conclusions on Alonso-Yanez’s Project  
Chapter 9 • Writing It Up: Final Presentations and Project Maps
Writing It Up as an Analytic Process  
Using Your Memos in Finalizing the Project  
Turning Situational Analysis Maps Into Final Project Maps  
Possibilities for Presenting and Publishing Your SA Project  
Temporary Conclusions  
Introduction to Part III
Chapter 10 • Turning to Discourses
What Is Discourse?  
Why Analyze Discourses?  
Turning Up the Volume on “Minor” Discourses  
Single Site and Multisite Approaches  
How to Design SA Discourse Projects  
Chapter 11 • Mapping Narrative Discourse Materials
Kinds of Extant Narrative Discourse Materials  
Designing a Narrative Discourse Project  
Doing Situational Maps of Narrative Discourse Materials  
Doing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps of Narrative Discourse Materials  
Doing Positional Maps of Narrative Discourse Materials  
Final Comments: Situational Analysis of Narrative Discourse Materials  
Chapter 12 • Mapping Visual Discourse Materials
The Rise of Visual Cultures  
Doing Situational Analysis of Visual Discourse Materials  
Visual Discourse Exemplar: Washburn’s Biomonitoring Project  
Final Comments: Situational Analysis of Visual Discourse Materials  
Chapter 13 • Mapping Historical Discourse Materials
Historicizing Historical Approaches  
Designing Historical and Historicizing Projects  
Historical Discourse Analysis Exemplar: Introducing Message’s Project  
Doing Situational Maps of Historical Discourse Materials  
Doing Social Worlds/Arenas Maps of Historical Discourse Materials  
Doing Positional Maps of Historical Discourse Materials  
Final Comments: Situational Analysis of Historical Discourse Materials  
Epilogue: Situational Analysis Issues and FAQs
Comparing Early GT With Constructivist GT and SA  
Tips on Learning and Teaching Situational Analysis  
Decolonizing and (Post)Colonial Situational Analysis  
SA Mapping as Facilitating Engagement and Collaboration  
FAQs About Situational Analysis  
Final Words  
Appendix A: Grounded Theory and Situational Analysis Websites  
Appendix B: Selected Exemplars of Situational Analysis by Discipline  
Appendix C: Selected Exemplars of Situational Analysis by Mapping Focus  


Student Study Site

Open access resources at help you further engage with Situational Analysis. Materials include:

  • The epilogue, “FAQs and Conversations” from the first edition
  • Relevant SAGE Journal articles from across disciplines, organized by mapping emphasis
  • Exemplars of Situational Analysis projects
  • Downloadable templates for use in the field
  • Tips for teaching and learning Situational Analysis
  • Video and multimedia resources to assist with further explorations of topics
  • Appendices from the book for quick reference
  • The reference list from the text and a list of additional publications by the authors to aid in continuing research

“The book is a milestone in the development of qualitative research. It shows comprehensively and convincingly how pragmatism and post-structuralism can be used to analyze the complexity of our contemporary condition.”

Rainer Winter
Klagenfurt University, Austria

“This updated text has moved the field further along in its understanding of not just the theoretical underpinning of SA, but the practical steps of how to use it well. Anyone wanting to know how to construct a sound SA research design must read this book.”

Adah Ward Randolph
Ohio University

“Relentlessly empirical and fiercely situated, the second edition is dense, refreshing, and conversational. It invites readers to practice the art of Situational Analysis and extends the reach, relevance, and versatility of the conceptual methodology.”

Nancy D. Campbell
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“The new edition captures the substance and the excitement of Situational Analysis and its relation to other developments in social science, provides well-elaborated examples to make the methods concrete, and points to questions of theory that invite career-length exploration.”

Peter Taylor
University of Massachusetts Boston

“Imagine a conceptual methodology textbook that serves as coach, mentor, and cheerleader for Situational Analysis. The second edition supports and facilitates constant reflection while you are researching, analyzing, and writing. It will motivate many fine projects in the years to come.”

Nancy Campbell
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

“Situational Analysis helps researchers critically and constructively map the complexities of today's diverse and often contested aspects of human and technological interaction. Use of this second edition of Situational Analysis will enable further ideas and dialogues to address postmodern dilemmas.”

Tom Strong
University of Calgary

“This extensively updated edition puts qualitative data analysis in the grounded theory tradition on the map, literally and figuratively.”

Stefan Timmermans
University of California, Los Angeles

“The present book is a powerful revision of Situational Analysis. Adele E. Clarke and her co-authors succeed all through this 'theory-methods package' in combining older and newest theory and methodology in social inquiry beyond jargon, with a carefully elaborated introduction into the practice of doing SA analysis. The authors so much know and live what they are writing about – this is the book's core feeling from start to end.”

Reiner Keller
Augsburg University, Germany

“I have been teaching Situational Analysis to my graduate and post-graduate students based on the first edition of Clarke’s book for some years. The students have appreciated her direct and hands-on approach to studying complex and intricate empirical issues. I very much look forward to use this second edition of Situational Analysis in my courses. It will offer the students even more guidance for their studies. It has a unique blend of theoretical depth and practical applicability that speaks directly to students and scholars who want engage with empirical complexities.”

Anders Buch
Aalborg University, Denmark
Key features


  • A new teaching- and user-friendly organization divides the book into three parts: Part I: Framing and Grounding Situational Analysis, Part II: Doing Situational Analysis from Project Design to Final Write-Ups, and Part III: Mapping Extant Discourse Materials—Narrative, Visual, and Historical.
  • Two new co-authors, Carrie Friese and Rachel S. Washburn, expand the knowledge and experience of using and teaching Situational Analysis.
  • An expanded number of chapters (from 9 to 15) makes it easier for readers to locate specific content.
  • A new extended discussion of the concept of “the situation” explores its theoretical groundings, relation to the turn to the social, and its methodological and practical implications in qualitative inquiry.
  • Expansion of the theoretical and methodological grounds of Situational Analysis, situating the method within the interpretive turn, presents a genealogy of contemporary grounded theories in practice and discusses recent work on abduction and Deleuze and Guattari’s rhizomes and assemblages.
  • A new chapter on getting started with a Situational Analysis project provides readers with answers to common questions and guidance in the research process, especially useful for those new to the method or to qualitative inquiry.
  • New exemplars, including four new Situational Analysis projects with all their maps focused on environmental, media, health and science, and technology studies, have been added to Chapters 9, 11, 12, and 13.
  • A new chapter exclusively dedicated to a complete, fully worked Situational Analysis exemplar walks readers through the process of getting started, creating various kinds of maps, overcoming the kinds of challenges faced across the research process, and the particular analytic insights gained through using this method.
  • A new chapter on “writing it up” describes project maps and possible focuses for write-ups based on distinctive strengths of Situational Analysis for presentations and publications.
  • Three new appendices focused on Grounded Theory and Situational Analysis websites provide exemplars of situational analysis by discipline, and exemplars of situational analysis by mapping focus.


  • Draws upon and is situated at the cutting edge of transdisciplinary social theory, providing readers new to qualitative inquiry with some grounding in its theoretical assumptions and current debates.
  • Extends grounded theory into analysis of extant historical, visual, and discursive materials, as well as interviews and observations.
  • A groundbreaking approach helps researchers examine difference, relationality, silences in data, conditionality, and complexity, and is also very useful for multi-site research projects.

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