ASOK15632U Problematization Analysis: How and Why something is and became a Social Problem
MA Research Methodology and Practice (MSc Curriculum 2015)
Course package (MSc 2015):
Welfare, inequality and mobility
Knowledge, organisation and politics
Culture, lifestyle and everyday life
Imagine that instead of approaching social phenomena with the aim of testing causal relationships, interpreting meaning or accounting for social constructions, we set out to understand how and why something has become a social problem worthy of our research interest in the first place. This would change our way of posing research questions, of designing qualitative inquiry, of gathering material (e.g., of conducting interviews or taking field notes), of coding and analysing the material – and it would probably lead to new contributions not only to research, but also to our dialogue with practitioners.
One example will illustrate this: Using problematization analysis methods, Pernille Steen Pedersen has recently found that processes leading to stress-related sick-leave from work are not always driven by work overload (as is generally assumed), but by a vicious circle of emotional shame. This is an entirely different problem that calls for innovations in both stress research and management practice.
Problematization analysis is a social research method in the making: It is a topic of increasing interest not only in sociology, but also in organization studies, political science, nurse studies and yet other fields. It is rooted Foucault’s own reassessment of his work late in his life – not in terms of power and discourse, but of problems and responses: ‘What I tried to do from the beginning was to analyse the process of “problematisation” – which means: how and why certain things (behaviour, phenomena, processes) became a problem’.
The aim of the course is not to make students conform to one established standard, but to engage them in the collective endeavour to develop and employ problematization as a method in sociological research. Hence, students will be required to outline and carry out a ‘pilot’ study using problematization analysis methods and a substantial part of the time in class (about ½) will be consecrated to students presenting and discussing their work in progress in written and/or oral form (peer feedback) at the different stages of the research process. The aim is not to produce a full-blown research project, but to get a hands-on experience with the different stages of problematization analysis. Students are invited to use this as an opportunity to develop pilot projects as preparations for their MA theses. The aim of the course is also reflected in the oral exam with synopsis that does not require a full-blown and finalized research product, but the capacity to actively engage in and critically reflect upon it in the making (see the intended learning outcome for details).
During the course, students will:
- Be introduced to and discuss various attempts at developing problematization analysis into a coherent research method
- Get an overview of the methodological and theoretical commitments of problematization analysis that distinguish it from positivist, social constructivist and hermeneutical traditions
- Get a clear sense of and reflect upon how problematization analysis can and should be conducted through the different stages of the research process: formulation of research questions and research design, gathering of materials, coding and analysis, and producing outputs of value not only to a research community but also to practitioners.
- Design and conduct their own problematization analysis of a sociological phenomenon of choice.
Reflect on how the results can renew dialogue with practitioners about the problem
The learning aims of the course follow below, which is identical to the assessment criteria of the course:
- Summarize the theoretical and epistemological commitments of problematization analysis
- Account for and relate the objectives and methods of problematization analysis at the different levels of the research process: formulation of research questions and research design, gathering of materials, coding and analysis, and producing outputs
- Differentiate between problematization analysis and positivist, hermeneutical and social constructivist approaches
- Account for and critically discuss uses of problematization analysis in the existing literature and their differences
- Conduct problematization analysis of a sociological phenomenon of own choice
- Formulate research questions and design adapted for problematization analysis
- Gather relevant materials employing problematization analysis research techniques
- Identify new problems in qualitative material
- Evaluate the new problems in relation to known ones
- Put into perspective the findings in terms of consequences both for future research and practitioners
- Propose and critically reflect on relevant topics and strategies of dialogue with practitioners based on findings from a problematization analysis, as well as on the expected value of the findings for practitioners.
Book to be acquired before course start:
Foucault, Michel 2002. The Arcaeology of Knowledge. Routledge.
One syllabus chapter will be made available on Absalon from Colin Koopman’s book: Genealogy of Critique: Foucault and the Problems of Modernity. 2013, Indiana UP. The remaining chapters of the book are suggested supplementary reading. Students particularly interested in the theoretical underpinnings of Foucaultian problematization analysis may thus consider acquiring this book as well.
The syllabus of the course will cover central texts on:
- Foucaults problematization as well as on discourse analysis.
- Intellectual roots of Foucault’s notion of problematization
- Contemporary attempts to employ problematization in
sociological and related research
- Related qualitative research methods
- Different ways of doing comparison
- Doing problematization analysis: gathering materials, coding
- Research examples from various fields
Students will be asked to outline and carry through a ‘pilot’ problematization analysis. About 1/2 of the time in class will be consecrated to students presenting their work in written and/or oral form, and to discussion of their work in progress (peer feedback) at the different stages of the research process. The aim is not to produce a full-blown research project, but to get a hands-on experience with the different stages of problematization analysis.
The remaining 1/2 of time in class will be spent on lectures and discussion of the curriculum in plenum.
Registration deadline for courses is June 1 for Autumn semester
and December 1 for Spring semester. Registration deadline for
Summer school is June 1.
When registered you will be signed up for exam.
International exchange students must sign up by filling in an application form: course registration.
Credit students: klik her
- 7,5 ECTS
- Type of assessment
- Oral defenceIndividual or group.
If the synopsis is written by more than one student, the oral exam must be a group exam. Further details for this exam form can be found in the Curriculum and in the General Guide to Examinations at KUnet.
- Exam registration requirements
Sociology students must be enrolled under MSc Curriculum 2015 to take this exam.
Credit students must be at master level.
- Marking scale
- 7-point grading scale
- Censorship form
- No external censorship
- Exam period
Find more information on your study page at KUnet. Exchange students and Danish full degree guest students please see the homepage of Sociology; http://www.soc.ku.dk/english/education/exams/ and http://www.soc.ku.dk/uddannelser/meritstuderende/eksamen/
At re-exam, the form of examination is the same as ordinary exam.
If the form of examination is ”active participation” the re-examination form is always “free written take-home essay”.
Criteria for exam assesment
See learning outcome.
- Class Instruction
- Course Preparation
- Exam Preparation