Qualitative studies usually provide rich insights based on small-scale in-depth snapshots. Findings are accepted within study-specific confines, with little attempt to establish inference beyond the original contexts of people and place. In the quest for originality, researchers de-emphasise commonality and continuity. But does qualitative research only produce ‘little islands of knowledge’ (Glaser and Strauss, 1971: 181)? Or can multiple studies jointly reveal parts of a coherent bigger picture that lurks behind? This seminar reflects on the major qualitative longitudinal ESRC Welfare Conditionality Study (2014–19) to explore the untapped potential for identifying repeat patterns of lived experiences that may be strong enough to constitute a ‘shared typical’ (Williams, 1961: 48).