Empirical research that aims at getting differentiated insights into the military is usually determined by a dilemma situation: for those researchers who work outside the military (e.g. at civil universities), field access is often difficult to gain; and for those who work inside the military (e.g. at research institutes of the armed forces), scientific independence to choose research topics and methods autonomously and publish the research results freely may be restricted by institutional demands. In Germany, social science research on the military basically follows the second path: it takes place as contract research on behalf of the government at the Bundeswehr Institute of Social Sciences (SOWI). The institute possesses a unique selling proposition in the field of empirical military sociology in the country (Klein 2005; WR 2009: 21-22, 54).2 This fact raises some serious questions with methodological implications: To what extent do the frame conditions determine research methodologies, designs and processes? How does research vice versa impact its field? And which strategies can be implemented to guarantee ethically responsible research? On the basis of a research study on cross-cultural competence in the military, which was carried out at the institute in 2010, these questions are being discussed in the following chapter. It aims at presenting a critical and self-reflexive analysis of the very conditions of research from inside the armed forces and their methodological implications. First, the institutional frame of the project and the project itself will be outlined (sections 2 and 3). Then the particular challenges of applied contract research for the armed forces will be analysed (section 4). Finally, strategies of dealing with these challenges as well as perspectives that disclose the potential of qualitative research in military contexts will be put up for discussion (section 5). The chapter develops the following line of argument: many methodological challenges we faced in the course of our study are not specific to the military, but occur in other contexts and areas of social research and

with regard to other research issues as well. Therefore, innovative research strategies that have been implemented in these areas (like migration or health studies) are worth being taken into account, if one is to conceptualize and conduct research in and for the armed forces. A decisive difference, however, concerns the impact of applied contract research for the military on the research field, notably the studied subjects themselves – the soldiers – because empirical findings may have direct consequences on and in what is commonly referred to as a “total institution” (Goffman 1959; see also Apelt 2004, 2008; Nesbit and Reingold 2008; Krainz and Slunecko 2011). This leads to a particular ethical responsibility of researchers who have to be aware of the regulative and normative implications of their findings, as Biehl (2010) points out. In this sense qualitative research offers a particular chance not only to reflect on its consequences in the field but to carry out this reflection systematically, together with the research subjects, the soldiers, and therefore acknowledge them as reflexive agents in the research process (Kühner and Langer 2010).