How feasible is it to conduct secondary data analysis across existing data from several qualitative longitudinal studies? Working Across Qualitative Longitudinal Studies: A feasibility study looking at care and intimacy is a three year research project which seeks to explore this question. It is funded by the ESRC as part of a package of research by the National Centre for Research Methods. The project aims to extend and develop secondary analytic practice in working with complex longitudinal data. To do this, the project is working with existing data from empirical projects conducted under the ESRC funded Timescapes initiative. Our analysis will focus on the substantive topic of care and intimacy to consider how we can answer questions about shifts in practices of care and intimacy over time and across the life course.
Background and approach
The UK has been at the cutting edge of recent developments in qualitative longitudinal research (QLR). The goal of QLR is to enable the exploration of complex processes, context and trajectories of social change and continuity. The ESRC Timescapes project was the first major qualitative longitudinal study in the UK. Seven projects explored how personal and family relationships develop and change over time at various stages of the lifecourse – children and young people, parenting and family life, and older generations. They each collected several waves of data, using a range of qualitative methods. There have been secondary studies working with the Timescapes archived data for individual projects across time, or looking across several of the projects at a single point in time. This project takes analysis of Timescapes further to seek general lessons about meaningfully meshing studies synchronically and diachronically – analysing across projects and across time.
We aim to develop procedures for working with multiple sets of in-depth temporal qualitative data to produce analyses that scale up horizontally and vertically, exploring the feasibility of different approaches. Our strategy revolves around two key issues:
- what is the relationship between breadth of analysis and depth of analysis in scaling up across data sets; and
- can we take a ‘test pit’ approach to trying out different, complementary forms of qualitative data analysis before scaling up across the data sets?
We also aim to contribute to emergent good practice in a new field, concerning the relationship between secondary analysts and the original team who created the data set.