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ESDS Qualidata: accessing, exploring and using data Louise Corti ESDS Qualidata, University of Essex Research Methods Festival Oxford, July 2006.

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Presentation on theme: "ESDS Qualidata: accessing, exploring and using data Louise Corti ESDS Qualidata, University of Essex Research Methods Festival Oxford, July 2006."— Presentation transcript:

1 ESDS Qualidata: accessing, exploring and using data Louise Corti ESDS Qualidata, University of Essex Research Methods Festival Oxford, July 2006

2 Qualitative data resources What do we have? How can I find it? How can I access it? How can I use it?

3 ESDS Qualidata function of the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS) specialist service led by the UK Data Archive at the University of Essex acquires, provides access to, and support for, a range of qualitative datasets on a national scale responsible for enhancing qualitative data and documentation provides information and training resources for re-analysing qualitative data

4 Economic and Social Data Service a more integrated national approach to data archiving and dissemination provides more seamless and easier access to a range of disparate social science data resources dedicated functions: –Management and Co-ordination Function –Core Data Archiving and Preservation Service –Government Data Service –International Data Service –Qualitative Data Service –Longitudinal Data Service

5 Brief background to Qualidata project to save endangered qualitative social research material identified: –collated and organised –catalogued and described –metadata created –deposited with paper archives –collections promoted –user support

6 Next phase – archiving digital data merge with UK Data Archive in 2001 –into an established quantitative digital archive –moving towards electronic and online dissemination –small onsite paper archive maintained National Social Policy and Social Change Archive (NSPSCA) –links with other traditional archives continued

7 UKDA: sources of data Data for research and teaching purposes and used in all sectors and for many different disciplines official agencies - mainly central government international statistical time series individual academics - research grants market research agencies public records/historical sources qualitative and quantitative links to UK census data access to international data via links with other data archives worldwide

8 Collection held at UKDA 4,000+ datasets in the collection 200+ new datasets are added each year 6,500+ orders for data per year 18,000+ datasets distributed worldwide per year history data service in-house (AHDS)


10 NSPSCA screen shot

11 Qualitative data collections Key sources of data: data from National Research Council (ESRC) individual and programme research grant awards data from classic social science studies other funders of social science existing archived collections that can be enhanced for social research use

12 Types of qualitative data Diverse data types: in-depth interviews ; semi- structured interviews; focus groups; oral histories; mixed methods data; open-ended survey questions; case notes/records of meetings; diaries/ research diaries Multi-media: audio, video, photos and text (most common is interview transcriptions) Formats: digital, paper, analogue audio-visual Data structures - differ across different document types

13 Qualitative data criteria relative importance or impact of the study eg. had a major influence in its field and/or representing the working life of a significant researcher complementary to existing data holdings popularity of the study topic (health, criminology, social policy) data that have further analytic potential than the original investigation. based on national samples mixed methods data

14 The paper mountain most new collections are born digital but much older data in paper format will digitise paper: –scan and OCR samples of key data –scan as image files to enable faster throughput may digitise sound bytes from audio cassette facilitate archiving of larger non-digital collections in traditional other archives across the UK –but may selectively digitise highlights

15 Classic datasets Peter Townsend – poverty, old age and Katherine Buildings Paul Thompson – oral history and Edwardians Mildred Blaxter – grandmothers and daughters Dennis Marsden – fatherless families National Social Policy and Social Change Archive


17 Accessing archived research Data are processed –error checking/validation of contents –creation of user aids, hand lists –user guides, data lists, metadata, searchable catalogue records –provide context processed collections can be explored through online search engine –UK Data Archive online catalogue –

18 Qualicat screen shot

19 UKDA Catalogue screen shot

20 Searching and browsing By: free text investigator topic dates of fieldwork and period covered publications arising date data released

21 Some recent datasets Grandparents and Teen Grandchildren: Exploring Intergenerational Relationships, A Cross-Generational Investigation of the Making of Heterosexual Relationships, Classroom Assistants in Primary Schools: Employment and Deployment, Penal Communication, Families, Social Mobility and Ageing, an Intergenerational Approach, (100 Families) Homework and its Contributions to Learning, Gender Divisions and Gentrification, Meeting Basic Needs? Exploring the Survival Strategies of Forced Migrants, 2004

22 Supporting access: paper NSPSCA exists to preserve the (original) material –access and use has to follow preservation –conform to licences and any access conditions access to such archives requires –material in good order and well maintained –catalogue records –hand list/metadata –suitable offices to view

23 Supporting access: digital digital archives preserve originals –supply copies –conform to licences and any access conditions access to such archives requires: –material in good order (processed) –searchable catalogue records –user guides and related documentation –online access systems

24 Enhanced access more recent data born digital –accessible to larger audience –more easily searchable –potential for use of CAQDAS software web download service – UKDA ESDS Qualidata – Online data browsing system

25 Re-using data Archived qualitative data are a rich and unique, yet too often unexploited, source of research material. They offer information that can be re-analysed, reworked, and compared with contemporary data. In time, too, archived research materials can prove to be a significant part of our cultural heritage and become resources for historical as well as contemporary research. What then are the methodological, ethical and theoretical considerations relating to the secondary analysis of qualitative data?

26 Culture of re-use well-established tradition in social science of reanalysing quantitative data no logical intellectual reason why this should not be so for qualitative data however, among qualitative researchers no similar research culture lack of discussion of the issues involved in literature on the benefits and limitations of such approaches more now published, but more needed …!

27 What data? often a diversity of methods and tools rather than a single one are encompassed types of data collected vary with the aims of the study and the nature of the sample samples are most often small, but may rise to 500 or more informants as we have seen data include interviews, group discussions, fieldwork diaries and observation notes, personal documents, photographs etc. created in a variety of formats: digital, paper (typed and hand-written), audio, video and photographic

28 How then? How people are re-using data is somewhat dependent on: what is publicly available to suit research needs access and restriction policies data formats – audio-visual is richer amount of contextual documentation that is available time to get to know data well analytic skills

29 Secondary analysis potential description comparative research, restudy or follow-up study augment data you collect e.g. expand sample size re-analysis or secondary analysis verification research design and methodological advancement teaching and learning

30 Description describing the contemporary and historical attributes, attitudes and behaviour of individuals, societies, groups or organisations data created now, will in time become a unique historical resource providing alternative sources (the peoples voice etc.) to the public record that will be deposited in archives

31 Comparative research, replication or restudy of original research to compare with other data sources to provide comparison over time or between social groups or regions etc. to follow up original sample verification - substantiating results, although we have yet to see any evidence of re-use for this purpose (might be useful in a teaching context though)

32 Re-analysis secondary analysis asking new questions of the data and making different interpretations to the original researcher approaching the data in ways that weren't originally addressed, such as using data for investigating different themes or topics of study the more in-depth the material, the more possible this becomes

33 Research design and methodological advancement designing a new study or developing a methodology or research tool by studying sampling methods, data collection and fieldwork strategies and topic guides although researchers often publish a section on methods used, researchers' own fieldwork diaries can offer much insight into the history and development of the research encourage researchers to reflect on the researchers own experiences

34 Teaching and learning older 'classic' studies and more contemporary focused sets of transcripts can provide unique case material for teaching and learning in both research methods and substantive areas across a range of social science disciplines ESDS Qualidata can advise teachers and students on many aspects of using data resources in lectures and for self-study –providing a number of teaching datasets and associated learning materials –training workshops and online materials We are always looking for partnerships with academics and researchers to create new resources!

35 Qualitative data re-use examples classic restudies include Rowntree's three surveys of poverty in York, and Llewellyn Smith's repeat of Booth's survey in London. also the two successive community studies of Banbury anthropological example - the controversial restudy and reinterpretation by Oscar Lewis of Redfield's Tepotzlan in Mexico material from Paul Thompson's national study of 'Family Life and Work Experience before 1918', has been re-used by over 100 researchers and students, providing the basis of a series of books and articles

36 Difficulties cited in re-using data constraints of informed consent problem of the implicit nature of qualitative data collection and analysis – context and reflexivity lack of time to get fully acquainted with research materials created by someone else insecurity about the exposure of ones own research practice; IPR or threat of misinterpretation lack of publicly available research data

37 The evidence Discussions with many qualitative researchers suggest that: views are by no means homogenous when asked what, if any, barriers existed to further exploitation of data by a secondary analyst, responses varied from –overt support for sharing one's own data to –vehement displeasure at the thought of being asked to share a 'possession' considered to be of personal value

38 Ethical and consent considerations questions of confidentiality and agreements made at the time of fieldwork archived data should always conform to ethical and legal guidelines with respect to the preservation of anonymity when this has been requested by informants or guaranteed to them achieve this by various strategies – see ESDS Qualidata web pages: anonymising the original data restricting access/vetting obtaining legal undertakings to protect respondents anonymity seeking views of respondents

39 Representation, coverage and context of the research and fieldwork in the process of analysing and coding data, researchers use their own personal knowledge and experiences as tools to make sense of the material, which may be indefinable and cannot be easily documented. researchers own reflexivity enhances the raw data gathered and stimulates the formulation of new hypotheses in the field. can data be effectively used by someone who has not been involved in the original study? how much of the jigsaw can be missing yet leave the puzzle still worth attempting?

40 Yes…but… the loss of context in archived data should not be seen as an insurmountable barrier to re-use there already exist common and accepted instances where research data is used in a ' second hand ' sense by investigators themselves: –PIs writing up the final analysis may not have been directly engaged in fieldwork –those working in research teams sharing one's own experiences of the fieldwork and its context are essential, but never total –the analysts or authors must rely on fieldworkers and co- workers documenting detailed notes about the project and communicating them, and having access to original data e.g. audio materials Work on context is happening now!

41 Unfamiliarity with the method because most qualitative researchers are unused to consulting data collected by other people, their concept of 'secondary analysis' is still typically associated with the 'number crunching' of survey datasets by contrast the positive experiences of researchers who have gone back to their own data or have embarked upon new investigations on archived data testify how fruitful the effort can be Fielding and Fielding 2000 Akerstrom and Jacobsson 2004

42 Threat of misinterpretation concerns arise from fear of selective and opportunistic interpretation in re-analysis researchers conducting longitudinal programmes feel particularly vulnerable due to the potentially negative impact of bad publicity on sample attrition concern surrounding the mis-use of politically-sensitive occupational or environmental data by pressure groups, industry, or the press straightforward misinterpretation by other academics is not often a problem - much more typical, and usually after a considerable time lag, is a serious critique of the original study But this is precisely how intellectual understanding advances! paradoxically, at the same time it may give the original study new attention and esteem

43 Lack of infrastructure for data- sharing one of the barriers to re-using data in the past, and indeed in many countries still, has been the lack of an infrastructure to enable access to the rich research data collected in the academic community the growing establishment of national data- sharing policies is helping to secure data stock of data archived still rests on the willingness to share by the original investigators…

44 Threat to intellectual property rights some researchers have voiced concern over the loss of their control over data or their intellectual property rights when data become publicly archived some wish to complete working on the data before it can be offered to the wider community in the medical field, keeping data in-house and restricting access is thus one way of preserving intellectual capital other researchers consider their data as private property –anthropologists may have built a career around studying one particular remote region –stock of intellectual capital that they can exploit through their lifetime

45 Encourage users researchers to consult existing data sources consider both substantive and methodological issues in data re-use teachers to use real data for teaching and learning students to explore original data sources

46 ESDS Qualidata: enabling re-use providing a better understanding of the study and research methods –enhanced user guides and digital samplers –exemplars and case studies of re-use

47 Facilitating secondary analysis acquire a broad range of rich qualitative data make obtaining data more straightforward producing enhanced data and documentation: –user guides, thematic intros and digital samplers –exemplars and case studies of re-use –bibliography of methods of secondary analysis –interviews with depositors –teaching datasets –online access to qualitative data active promotion, outreach and publishing providing range of user support and training activities

48 Online access to qualitative data emphasis on providing direct access to collection content –supports more powerful resource discovery –greater scope for searching and browsing content of data (supplementary to higher level study-related metadata) –since users can search and explore content directly… can retrieve data immediately providing access to qualitative data via common interface (ESDS Qualidata Online) supporting tools for searching, retrieval, and analysis across different datasets






54 Areas of best practice offered: data creation consent and confidentiality copyright recording equipment transcription methods data management formats, software, version control, security, back up, web standards data preparation for archiving documentation, metadata, contextualisation data mark up

55 Promoting best practice in data creation help desk for individual discussions, new grant applicants – and phone informative web site printed materials data creator and depositor roadshows break-out discussion groups surgeries working with research funding bodies to implement data archiving policies

56 Recent ESRC qualitative research initiatives offering important opportunities for collaboration: Qualitative Data Archiving and Sharing Demonstrator scheme (QUADS) National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM) National Centre for e-Social Science (NCeSS) National Qualitative Longitudinal Study


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