From Secondary Analysis to Data Archiving

Dr Anna Tarrant shares the impact of working with Timescapes Archive data in her series of studies: Following Young Fathers Further (2020-) and Men, Poverty and Lifetimes of Care (2014-2018)

Photo by Kelli McClintock on Unsplash

The Timescapes programme of research, and its legacy, the Timescapes Archive, has had a major impact on my research and my career. Here, I take a brief look at my journey from becoming aware of Timescapes, engaging in the secondary analysis of data produced from Timescapes studies, and to now, being in the process of archiving data generated from my current study ‘Following Young Fathers Further’, a four-year qualitative longitudinal study exploring the parenting trajectories and support needs of young fathers aged 25 and under.

I was conducting my doctoral research, on the role of grandfathers and their intergenerational engagements with their grandchildren when I first came across Timescapes. I was excited to learn from Bren Neale that a national group of researchers had come together to work collaboratively and produce a legacy from their work via a proposed archive of qualitative longitudinal data. The linked substantive focus across the projects on families, intergenerational relationships, generations and the life course, and the huge wealth of pooled knowledge in these areas was especially appealing as it also aligned well with my developing substantive and theoretical interests.

Qualitative secondary analysis: innovations with data and new relationships

The proposal for ‘Men, Poverty and Lifetimes of Care’ (2014-2018) built in research time to conduct and explore the value of Qualitative Secondary Analysis (QSA). This was through study design and generating new knowledge by bringing new research questions to data that had already been generated. Having engaged in conversations with members of the primary research teams, and sifted through study outputs and metadata, I selected and analysed theoretically sampled subsets of data from two Timescapes datasets; ‘Intergenerational Exchange’ and ‘Following Young Fathers’ and continue to do so!

Intergenerational Exchange investigated grandparenting in a low-income locality in the North of England, with a key analytic focus on grandmothers, but also included data generated with grandfathers. I selected the data with the grandfathers to foreground their experiences and explore their care responsibilities, pathways to caregiving, and the processes influencing their family participation.

Following Young Fathers’ explored the parenting journeys and support needs of young fathers (aged 25 and under). I worked with a subsample of ten participants identified as living in poverty and multiply marginalised. Working within and across both datasets, the QSA work involved initial analyses of how men narrated their care responsibilities and progressed to build a picture about how, why and for whom these men were engaged in care and how and to what extent this might be enabled or constrained.

A new empirical phase of the research was also built from these engagements with the data demonstrating how new research might be developed. The men in both datasets were making shared observations that, understandably, were not followed up by the original research teams given the focus and orientation of their projects. Questions of child maintenance for example arose as concerns both for the young fathers and the grandfathers (Tarrant, 2017). These were followed up in a second empirical stage of ‘Men, Poverty and Lifetimes of Care’, and were explored in more depth and detail with a new, theoretically linked sample of fathers and grandfathers (Tarrant,2021).

The broader value of QSA and innovations with (QL) data

As I explain elsewhere, my work with the Timescapes data has been an important part of my ‘toolkit’ as a researcher and has enabled a whole range of opportunities, many unanticipated. This includes testing new methodological techniques for engaging with existing data (e.g. Tarrant and Hughes, 2019;2020); familiarisation with existing datasets, bringing them together and theoretically sampling from them; bringing new questions to new samples, and generating new insights; developing new empirically-driven research questions, and sustaining and extending existing study samples, as well as key stakeholder groups and networks. The QSA work and the wider relationships and networks it facilitated also resulted in continued funding and research. I have since secured a new £1.2 million UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship for my current study ‘Following Young Fathers Further, which develops blue-sky thinking around young fatherhood, and extends the longitudinal reach of ‘Following Young Fathers’ as its baseline.

Bren Neale is now my study mentor. We have been able to re-access a sub-sample of young fathers who have been participating in the ‘Following Young Fathers’ baseline study for almost a decade, producing rich, extended qualitative longitudinal data about young fathers’ journeys and support needs and the extent to which these have changed over time. We also continue to work with existing partners with whom relationships were established through the study, including local champions for young fathers who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to supporting young fathers to be the involved dads they want to be.

With both young fathers and professionals who support them, we are now advancing methods of cocreation by working collaboratively to implement and promote methods of good practice in the support of young fathers and their families. We are also committed to archiving the data generated from the study in the Timescapes Archive. This will sit with the ‘Following Young Fathers’ dataset and constitute a major qualitative longitudinal resource about young fatherhood, ensuring that the voices of this otherwise invisible, marginalised and under-researched group are preserved for the historical record.

Archives as communities: building research relationships over time

As Kahryn notes in her opening Timescapes Archive blog, archives are communities. More broadly, this encourages consideration of the importance of relationships over time and what archives may come to represent. In working with two datasets, I became invested in a wider community of researchers via the use of their datasets. I have also benefited from mentoring from Bren and Kahyrn. The sharing of ideas and observations of the empirical world was mutually beneficial, resulting in new analyses and outputs that are the product of collaborative expertise, which also supported successful funding bids.

I am now also situated in a community comprising diverse participants, some of whom have been participating in research for over a decade. I have ‘met’ participants and their families through their data and face to face and have taken forwards new relationships and research questions with them. Archiving the data generated from the ‘Following Young Fathers Further’ study also represents an investment for the future, with new (and currently unknown) relationships with future researchers and participants, with huge potential to generate new knowledge that is enhanced through new and diverse perspectives.

In sum, the QSA work and engagement with the archive has resulted in extended and enhanced research relationships that have been carefully built over time; the research I am producing is all the better for it.


Hughes, K. and Emmel, ND (2011) Intergenerational Exchange: Mid-Life Grandparents, Poverty and Health Dataset. University of Leeds, UK: Timescapes Archive

Hughes, K. and Tarrant, A. eds., 2019. Qualitative secondary analysis. Sage

Tarrant, A. (2016) Getting out of the swamp? Methodological reflections on using qualitative secondary analysis to develop research design, International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 20 (6): 599-611.

Tarrant, A., 2021. Fathering and poverty: Uncovering men’s participation in low-income family life. Policy Press.

Tarrant, A., and Hughes, K. 2020 ‘Collective Qualitative Secondary Analysis and DataSharing: Strategies, Insights and Challenges’, in K. Hughes and A. Tarrant (eds.) Qualitative Secondary Analysis, Sage: London.



Professor Anna Tarrant
Dr Anna Tarrant is a Professor in Sociology at the University of Lincoln and is a UKRI Future Leaders Fellow. She is also the co-editor of Sociological Research Online. She...
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