Markers of Psychobiographical Research

In the context of quality criteria for psychobiographical research, Schultz (2005d, p. 6) has developed criteria in the context of psychobiographies to understand “the truth” from the data as far as possible. These criteria integrate logical soundness, comprehensiveness, surviving the test of attempted falsification, consistency with the full range of relevant evidence, support from above and its credibility being comparable to that of other interpretations. Various markers of “good” and “bad” psychobiographical research have been developed and discussed, such as in Schultz (2005d, 7), described in Table 6.2.

According to Schultz (2005d, p. 7), cogency is defined as a “basic interpretive persuasiveness” which leaves the reader feeling ineffably “won over”. The concept of cogent psychobiographical works is supposed to be “comprehensive” and illustrative to provide the reader with new answers to newly posted questions. The conclusions in psychobiography should “follow naturally from an array of data”, and the interpretations of psychobiographic aspects in the life of a person should be “illuminating more aspects of an act in question” to gain cogency instead of failing to account for central detail.

Furthermore, the sources of a psychobiographic study should vary (data convergence) and the interpretation of the data combined with cogent interpretations should lead to a so-called “incoherent coherence” while striving for “elucidation”, which is “psychobiography’s most salutary aim” (“sudden coherence”, Schultz, 2005d, p. 7).

According to Schultz (2005d, p. 8) the psychobiography should be logically consistent and without self-contradictions (“logical soundness”), as any research should be. To be logically sound, the data collected should represent the most “available evidence” (Schultz, 2005d, p. 8). and the explored information should be combined with general knowledge of human functioning (“consistency”) and aim at withstanding “attempts at falsification” (“viability”) and thereby stand scrutiny.

Schultz (2005d, p. 8) only refers to these “good psychobiography markers” in a very brief way, which is reflected in the brief descriptions of the markers. No other work with regard to the theoretical definitions of these “good psychobiographical

Table 6.2 Good and bad psychobiography markers

Good psychobiography markers

Bad psychobiography markers



Narrative structure

Single cues



Data convergence


Sudden coherence

Poor theory choice

Logical soundness

Poor narrative structure





Source: Schultz (2005d, p. 7) markers” could be found. Schultz (2005d, p. 8) concludes at the end of defining these markers that “Life is about understanding other people. Psychobiography is no different.”.

The study attempts to address the briefly presented “good psychobiographical markers” (Schulz, 2005d, p. 7) to ensure the quality of the study. Besides following the briefly defined markers, the study follows a defined research process in psychobiography, which will be presented in the following section.

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