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Situational Analysis

Situational Analysis
Grounded Theory After the Interpretive Turn

Second Edition

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

This book presents a clear, accessible but in depth overview of Situational Analysis. The authors set out the history and foundations of situational analysis before addressing 'how to do' situational analysis. This comprehensive overview is relevant to all researchers, from those who are new to methods of analysis, those in the design phase of their project or those researchers who seek an alternative method of qualitative analysis.

Mrs Juliet Paterson
Sport, Physical Education & Leisure, Plymouth Marjon University
July 12, 2023
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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