Re-Using and Publishing Digital Qualitative Data

Categories: Qualitative, SAGE Posts, Tools and Resources

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SAGE OpenThe first open-access ‘megajournal’ for the social sciences, SAGE Open publishes peer-reviewed, original research and review articles spanning the full spectrum of the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities. This month SAGE Open features a special collection of five papers that present the current state of the art in the field of re-using and publishing digital qualitative data. The collection, “Digital Representations: Opportunities for Re-Using and Publishing Digital Qualitative Data,” was guest edited by Louise Corti and Libby Bishop, both from the University of Essex. The articles address the use of digital sources in qualitative research in both research and teaching, charting types of use over the past 10 years, and looking forward to emerging practices and methods, such as the promise and potential that technological innovations can bring to enable new ways of presenting and publishing qualitative research. Some of the papers make use of direct linking allowing the reader to explore “live” data sources, offering an opportunity to see how research transparency might be operationalized in the presentation of qualitative findings and reporting.

The issue benefits from this experience, and from the collaboration of all three editors — Corti, Bishop and Nigel Fielding — in “Digital Futures,” a funded project engaging with the cutting edge affordances of Web 2.0 technologies and beyond in application to qualitative research, culminating in the U.K. Data Service’s online data browsing system, QualiBank.

Click on the titles of the articles below to be taken to the full text.


Editorial for Special Edition, Digital Representations

Re-Using and Publishing Digital Qualitative Data | Louise Corti, Nigel Fielding, Libby Bishop

Opportunities From the Digital Revolution

Implications for Researching, Publishing, and Consuming Qualitative Research | Louise Corti, Nigel Fielding

In the 1990s, the term “online” research emerged as a new and vibrant suite of methods, focused on exploitation of sources not collected by traditional social science methods. Today, at least one part of the research life cycle is likely to be carried out “online,” from data collection through to publishing. In this article, we seek to understand emergent modes of doing and reporting qualitative research “online.” With a greater freedom now to term oneself a “researcher,” what opportunities and problems do working with online data sources bring? We explore implications of emerging requirements to submit supporting data for social science journal articles and question whether these demands might disrupt the very nature of and identity of qualitative research. Finally, we examine more recent forms of publishing and communicating research that support outputs where data play an integral role in elucidating context and enhancing the reading experience.

Revisiting Qualitative Data Reuse:

A Decade On | Libby Bishop, Arja Kuula-Luumi

Secondary analysis of qualitative data entails reusing data created from previous research projects for new purposes. Reuse provides an opportunity to study the raw materials of past research projects to gain methodological and substantive insights. In the past decade, use of the approach has grown rapidly in the United Kingdom to become sufficiently accepted that it must now be regarded as mainstream. Several factors explain this growth: the open data movement, research funders’ and publishers’ policies supporting data sharing, and researchers seeing benefits from sharing resources, including data. Another factor enabling qualitative data reuse has been improved services and infrastructure that facilitate access to thousands of data collections. The UK Data Service is an example of a well-established facility; more recent has been the proliferation of repositories being established within universities.

The Emotional Economy of Unemployment

A Re-Analysis of Testimony From a Sheppey Family, 1978-1983 | Jane Elliott, Jon Lawrence


Between May 1978 and December 1983, the sociologist Ray Pahl conducted seven extensive interviews with a couple from Sheppey that he called “Linda” and “Jim.” These not only informed a key chapter in Pahl’s classic book Divisions of Labour but also evolved into a uniquely intimate account of how a family used to “getting by” (though never “affluent”) coped with the hardships and indignities of long-term reliance on welfare benefits. Perhaps inevitably, fascinating aspects of Linda and Jim’s testimony were left unused in Divisions of Labour, primarily because they were marginal to Pahl’s principal aim of demonstrating how the state welfare system could trap a family in poverty. We deliberately retain the narrative, case study approach of Pahl’s treatment, but shift our focus to the strategies that Linda and Jim adopted to cope with the emotional and psychological challenges of life at the sharp end of the early 1980s recession. How they retained a strong orientation toward the future, how they resisted internalizing the stigmatization associated with welfare dependency in 1980s Britain, and how their determination to fight “the system” ultimately led them to make choices in harmony with the logic of the New Right’s free market agenda.

New Perspectives From Unstructured Interviews

Young Women, Gender, and Sexuality on the Isle of Sheppey in 1980 | Florence Sutcliffe-Braithwaite

Carol Gilligan_opt


In the early 1980s, Ray Pahl, a sociologist at the University of Kent, and PhD student Claire Wallace conducted interviews examining young people’s experiences of growing up, work, and unemployment on the Isle of Sheppey; these interviews are now deposited at the University of Essex, and this article examines how historians and others might reuse them to interrogate other subjects. The article examines one working-class young woman’s ideas about gender and sexuality in the early 1980s, using the Listening Guide method developed by psychologist Carol Gilligan to probe the individual subjectivity and emotion, as well as the cultural discourses at play in this interview. The article suggests how we can use a single individual’s narrative to offer a broader account of cultures or subcultures, by starting with the individual and examining how one subjectivity navigated and interacted with broader cultural discourses. Finally, this article also offers suggestions about some of the methodological and ethical issues with reusing archived sociological data but argues that it holds rich possibilities.

Developing Research-led Teaching:

Two Cases of Practical Data Re-use in the Classroom | Maureen Haaker, Bethany Morgan-Brett

Research-led teaching is an area that has gained attention and prominence within higher education. This article reviews two teaching resources developed from archived research data and demonstrates how this type of data reuse helps teachers establish a clear connection between research and teaching. The two teaching resources, developed by the authors in their time working at the UK Data Service, were created for use in higher education, and use Annette Lawson’s 1980s study of adultery and Stanley Cohen’s 1960s study of Mods and Rockers. The authors describe the resources in detail, explain how and why the content was developed, and explore the potential value that preserved real-world research data can have when using research to teach.

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