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Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts

Research Methods in the Social Sciences: An A-Z of key concepts (1st edn)

Jean-Frédéric Morin, Christian Olsson, and Ece Özlem Atikcan
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date: 28 September 2023

Sequence Analysis

Being Earnest with Timelocked

Sequence Analysis

Being Earnest with Timelocked

  • Thomas Collas
  •  and Philippe Blanchard


This chapter explores sequence analysis (SA), which conceives the social world as happening in processes, in series of events experienced by social entities. SA refers to a set of tools used to summarize, represent, and compare sequences — i.e. ordered lists of items. Job careers (succession of job positions) are typical examples of sequences. Various other topics have been studied through SA, such as steps in traditional English dances, country-level adoption of welfare policies over one century, or individual and family time-diaries. Andrew Abbott played a pioneering role in the diffusion of SA. With colleagues, Abbott introduced optimal matching analysis (OMA) in the social sciences, a tool to compare sequences borrowed from computer science and previously adapted to DNA sequences. Abbott’s work on SA was part of a wider methodological thinking on social processes. The chapter then looks at the most common type of sequences in social science: categorical time series — i.e. successions of states with a duration defined on a more or less refined chronological scale.

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