Beyond history versus theory: Strategic narrative and sociological explanation

Robin Stryker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Strategic narrative is a useful frame for the history-theory relationship in qualitative, historical research. It suggests that some stories and ways of constructing stories will promote theory building more than will others, enabling historical sociologists to help cumulate knowledge more effectively. Four aspects of strategic narrative are discussed and illustrated: (a) concurrent construction and mutual adjustment of history and theory, with each defined and built with reference to the other; (b) selection and construction of history in response to a clearly developed abstract, general theoretical backdrop, with attention to how that backdrop conditions building of history; (c) construction of a theoretical and historical anomaly as the starting point for a phased-in comparative research design, with each phase building narratives and comparisons around key events to answer specific theoretical questions, and all phases cumulating to respond to the full range of general theoretical issues motivating the design; and (d) formulation of clear, precise concepts, measures, and coding techniques to build history as both path-dependent action sequence and complex institutional and cultural context/conjuncture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-352
Number of pages49
JournalSociological Methods and Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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