Curriculum Vitae

Formal Stages of Education and Work

With this overview, I wish to illustrate the connection between the stages of my education, my scientific work, and the positions I held at the Universities of Muenster and Bielefeld, the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, as well as the Free University of Berlin.

At the Universities of Muenster and Bielefeld | 1967-1977


After graduating from high school, I started studying sociology at the Faculty of Law and Political Science at the University of Muenster. When the sociology programme was transferred to the newly founded Faculty of Sociology at the University of Bielefeld, I continued my studies there, specializing in general sociology, social work, social psychology, as well as planning and decision-making theory.

My diploma thesis is titled »Attempts to Link Criminal-Sociological Theories of Subculture, Anomie, the Labeling Approach under Consideration of Youth with the Support of General Sociological Theory, taking Into Account Theories of the Modern Sociology of Knowledge«, and was reviewed by Joachim Matthes and Günther Albrecht. It was published under the title »Action Competence and Juvenile Delinquency« [Handlungskompetenz und Jugendkriminalität].


After my diploma, I was occupied by the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Bielefeld as a research assistant with the task of preparing an international congress on the sociology of language. Erving Goffman, Harold Garfinkel, and Harvey Sacks, among others, attended this congress.


Subsequent to receiving a scholarship for postgraduates, I worked as a research assistant in a project funded by the Federal Ministry of Research and Technology on model institutions in social policy. In the scope of this project, nine youth and drug counselling facilities in North Rhine-Westphalia and Baden-Württemberg (Germany) were examined. As a research-practical novelty at this time, we were able to convince the employees of these institutions to let us evaluate their recorded consultation sessions.

At the University of Erlangen–Nuremberg | 1977-1990


After Joachim Matthes, the supervisor of my diploma thesis, was offered a professorship at the Institute for Sociology at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, I was offered a position as a research assistant.

During my time at the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, I prepared my dissertation with the title »Common-Sense Interpretation and Sociological  Reconstruction« [Alltagsinterpretation und soziologische Rekonstruktion], a project for which I conducted an empirical evaluation and corresponding type formation of 44 counselling sessions from the previously mentioned nine youth and drug counselling centres. For the theoretical framework, I have endeavoured to integrate aspects of ethnomethodology and Luhmann’s systems theory. As I still intended to graduate according to the doctoral regulations of the University of Bielefeld, I asked Luhmann as a second reader for an additional review of my dissertation. This report was characterized by a massive – albeit interesting – philosophical-epistemological criticism of my (radical) reconstructive analytical stance.


After my doctorate in 1981, my increased interest in the further development of conversation analysis led to a closer examination of group discussion as a research method. This was not least due to Werner Mangold, who was considered the pioneering representative of this method at the time. His enthusiasm for the reinterpretation and methodological renewal of his dissertation (supervised by Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer) inspired the plan to further develop the method. With Werner Mangold as an influential reviewer of the German Research Foundation, a (by this time) radical qualitative approach to studying the experience of youth was funded. The subjects of this project were the inconspicuous young people from a small town in northern Bavaria and the surrounding villages.

This endeavour resulted in my habilitation thesis with the final title »Generation, Milieu and Gender. Results from Group Discussions with Young People« [Generation, Milieu und Geschlecht. Ergebnisse aus Gruppendiskussionen mit Jugendlichen], which was reviewed by Werner Mangold and Joachim Matthes. With my habilitation, I received the teaching qualification (Venia Legendi) in general sociology.

At the Free University of Berlin | 1990-2013


In 1990 I was offered the Professorship for Qualitative Methods in the Social Sciences at the Free University of Berlin. The professorship was established alongside a new graduate programme of the same name. It was not only the creation of such a programme that was regarded as highly innovative but also its transdisciplinary focus. Furthermore, I served as founder and chairman of a joint commission constituted by various departments at the Free University of Berlin. Lecturers from educational science, sociology, psychology, ethnology, political science, communication science, and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development were involved.

The first edition of »Reconstructive Social Research« [Rekonstruktive Sozialforschung], probably my best-known work, was published in 1991. The tenth edition was released in 2021.

In the 1990s, I established the methodological and meta-theoretical foundations of the documentary method in connection with two projects in the converging field of youth research and criminal sociology, both funded by the German Research Foundation. The subjects of these projects were hooligans and rock bands in the eastern part of Berlin, as well as young people of Turkish origin from the western part of the city (immediately after the German reunification).

Starting in 1998, I served as a board member for the newly founded Zentrum für qualitative Bildungs-, Beratungs- und Sozialforschung, ZBBS (Centre for Qualitative Educational, Counseling and Social Research), which was initiated by Heinz-Hermann Krüger and Winfried Marotzki. Simultaneously, I also belonged since its inception to the editorial board of the scientific journal of the same name, the “Zeitschrift für qualitative Bildungs-, Beratungs- und Sozialforschung“. The contemporary iteration of this journal goes by the title “Zeitschrift für Qualitative Forschung” [Journal for Qualitative Research].

The Centre for Qualitative Educational, Counseling and Social Research formed the platform for the transregional Magdeburg Method Workshop [Bundesweiter Magdeburger Methodenworkshop], which is still an ongoing institution today. From 1998 to 2011, I led the associated research workshop on the documentary method.


Alongside the establishment of the Humboldt University in Berlin after the German reunification, capacities were withdrawn from the universities in former West Berlin. These circumstances led to constraints for my colleagues at the Free University of Berlin, who consequently had to withdraw, due to their increased workload, from the graduate programme I supervised. I transferred my teaching capacities to the Department of Education and Psychology and took over the administration of the newly founded Division for Qualitative Research on Human Development.

In addition to my courses as part of the diploma and magister programme in educational science, I have retained the “research workshop for student projects” in which graduate students of social sciences and beyond (medicine, law, computer science, theology) were supervised. At the turn of the millennium, I released the first publications on the documentary picture and video interpretation under the title »The Documentary Method in the Interpretation of Pictures and Photographs« [Die dokumentarische Methode in der Bild- und Fotointerpretation] and later the monograph »Qualitative Picture and Video Interpretation. The Documentary Method« [Qualitative Bild- und Videointerpretation. Die dokumentarische Methode].

In 2005, the ces – centrum für qualitative evaluations- und sozialforschung [Centre for Qualitative Evaluation and Social Research] was founded, initially with me as the first chairman.

In 2012, I was elected for four years as an expert reviewer for the German Research Foundation in Review Board 109: Educational Science.

since 2013

After my retirement in September 2013, I continued to offer research workshops as part of the methodological supervision of dissertations and other research projects. During this time, I occupied myself more with the theoretical dimension of my research, the praxeological sociology of knowledge. In the course of this progressive clarification of the basic theoretical concepts (meta-theory), I released the corresponding monograph »Praxeological Sociology of Knowledge« [Praxeologische Wissenssoziologie]

Being highly inspired by the dissertations I supervised, I further occupied myself with the intricacies of professionalization in people processing organizations. It became increasingly clear to me that the praxeological sociology of knowledge bears the potential to open up new perspectives on socialization in professional practices. In dealing with the empirical work of the supervised dissertations, I released the monograph »Professionalization from a Praxeological Perspective« [Professionalisierung in praxeologischer Perspektive].