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Guide to Secondary Analysis

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. Since then, there have been a host of innovations in Qualitative Secondary Analysis, including in Big Qual Analysis, by Professor Ros Edwards, Professor Lynn Jamieson, Dr Susie Weller and Dr Emma Davidson who produced the Big Qual Analysis Teaching Dataset. This dataset not only offers new opportunities for Teaching and Training. Big Qual offers the opportunity of ‘scaling up’ qualitative research whereby differently constituted datasets can be brought together on the basis of locality, substantive focus, historical period, and so forth, offering the potential to overcome the inevitable trade-off between ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ datasets and the analytical techniques extended to these. Big Qual can be used to generate new empirically grounded research questions, as well as new substantive findings. Big qual data allow us to develop depth explanations and solutions relating to human behaviour in complex processes.

Secondary Analysis within the Timescapes project

A major strand of work within Timescapes has been Qualitative Secondary Analysis also known as the re-use of archived data. The plan for the dataset created from the original seven Timescapes projects and their affiliates was 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. Since then, Dr Kahryn Hughes has become a Senior Fellow of the National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM), and you will find a list of training events here, some of which are for new approaches to Qualitative Secondary Analysis.

The Timescapes Archive Blog has been launched, and amongst the contributions are those addressing questions of qualitative data re-use, and the associated methodologies, that have been developed since the original Timescapes Study.

Finally, there is a list of key readings in Qualitative Secondary Analysis, as well as a list of other archives and repositories that support qualitative data re-use.