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From a Random Sample Study to a Study of Specific Cases: Biographical Interviews with POLPAN Respondents (Piotr Filipkowski’s research from 2014)

The design of the study entitled ‘From a Random Sample Study to a Study of Specific Cases: Biographical Interviews with POLPAN Respondents’ was developed by Dr. Piotr Filipkowski, in cooperation with Dr. Katarzyna Andrejuk. The initiative was accepted and supported by Professor Kazimierz M. Słomczyński, the head of the Polish Panel Survey POLPAN. The project aimed to supplement the data collected since 1988 in the POLPAN survey with biographical narrative interviews conducted with selected respondents from the oldest generation, i.e. those aged 72 and over. It was planned that the selected group should be as varied as possible in terms of certain characteristics. The aims of the endeavour were as follows: (1) at the most general level: reinforcing the biographical dimension of POLPAN, not only by returning to the same respondents (which is the essence of a panel study) but by changing the cognitive perspective: from a questionnaire-based perspective (asking questions) to a narrative perspective (listening), (2) expanding and supplementing the knowledge acquired through the survey method, as well as verifying whether the interviews enable a better interpretation of that knowledge, (3) gaining a new type of sociological knowledge about the interviewees, based on their subjective perspective and on a retrospective vision of their own lives, expressed in a free-flowing autobiographical narrative. One unique element of the project was that the biographical method was linked to the quantitative survey based on random sampling. This was probably the first such research project in Poland, which may be surprising given the strong position and the growing popularity of biographical approaches in Polish sociology.

The study was carried out between October and December 2014 throughout Poland. A total of 21 interviews were conducted and all have been transcribed. The project was a pilot study, with a possibility to be continued in the future.