Guide to Secondary Analysis

The value of Qualitative Secondary Analysis (QSA) is increasingly recognised in the UK and further afield.

Through browsing and serendipity, web based archives enable new and creative interpretations of pre-existing data. Re-use provides a unique opportunity to study the raw materials that past projects have generated, and to arrive at new insights from a different historical, geographical, theoretical or substantive perspective.

By bringing together Qualitative Longitudinal datasets on related themes, the Timescapes Archive facilitates analysis across one or more projects and datasets. In this way it is possible to enhance the evidence base and develop new forms of synthesis.

Strategies for the effective re-use of Qualitative Longitudinal datasets were developed under the ESRC Timescapes Initiative.

Secondary Analysis within the Timescapes project

A major strand of work within Timescapes has been Secondary Analysis also known as the re-use of archived data. The plan for the dataset created from the seven Timescapes projects and their affiliates is that it will live on as an accessible and re-useable resource, available to other researchers over the years, growing and developing in line with the programme’s original aims. Secondary analysis was therefore central to Timescapes’ work and was a core part of each project.

Secondary analysis offers opportunities for the development of new theorising from existing data, the creation of new evidence and the exploration of new methodologies in data use and re-use. Through browsing and serendipity, web-based archives offer opportunities for creative interpretations through the sharing of theories and the juxtaposing of perspectives.

In order to support secondary analysis during the lifetime of Timescapes member projects took part in a range of Collective Secondary Analysis activities where they shared experience and developed ideas and practice. These included collaborations across project teams, contributions to the Archiving work, and training and capacity building.

Timescapes also ran a dedicated Secondary Analysis Project with a remit to undertake substantive and methodological research working with primary project data sets, as well as contribute to methodological training.