We are pleased to have Dr Libby Bishop contribute as a guest blogger. Libby Bishop (Ph.D.) is Manager for Producer Relations at the UK Data Archive (University of Essex). She provides support and training on data management to researchers and data producers, with specialisation in ethics of data use: consent, confidentiality, anonymization and secure access to data. She also teaches workshops on secondary analysis of qualitative data. Libby worked as a Senior Research Archivist at the University of Leeds, where she was responsible for creating and managing the Timescapes archives and providing support for those using the data. Libby has published individually, and with others, on data management, qualitative secondary analysis and the ethical issues associated with big data. Her work has been critical in supporting the sharing and re-use of qualitative data, and advancing a more nuanced understanding of secondary data analysis.
In this post, Libby explains how a data archive is the perfect starting point for those new to qualitative longitudinal research.
Data from the past and for the future: Qualitative longitudinal data available at the UK Data Service
You may already be a member of the tribe of qualitative longitudinal (QL) researchers if you are reading this. But what if you are just starting out? You might be curious about how others have done QL projects. Of course, there are published articles to look at, and there are many to choose from now. But wouldn’t it be helpful to actually look at the data other researchers have used? To read in some detail what strategies were used to maintain contact between interviews? To read transcripts to discover, for example, exactly how the interviewer gently guided the respondent back to topics from the previous contact, without losing the thread of more recent events? All this, and more, is possible by looking at qualitative longitudinal data collections available for research at the UK Data Service.
Below I provide a brief introduction to just a few of these collections, of which we have dozens. These are available to be downloaded and used by researchers (after having registered with the Service). Two of these studies are about older age, and another is on a timely issue: elections.
The aim of this study was to examine preparations for the end of life made by older people with supportive care needs and the factors that support or undermine a sense of dignity. Thirty-four participants in Bristol and Nottingham were recruited via GPs and day centres. All had health problems that required support and care to varying degrees, including family care and support, medical treatment, community nursing, home care services and moves to care homes. They were interviewed face-to-face on four occasions (on average) between June 2008 and January 2011 and contacted by telephone between interviews. Face-to-face interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim.
The broad aim of the study was to define the constituents of quality of life in older age. The research questions were twofold: how do older people define and prioritise quality of life, and how do they feel it can be improved? This study represented a unique multidisciplinary and mixed methods collaboration between investigators with backgrounds in sociology, psychology, social gerontology, transport planning and clinical epidemiology. Following the fielding of the questionnaire, 80 respondents were selected for an in-depth interview to probe factors further affecting quality of life.
This research project recorded the views and concerns of Britons before and after the 2010 General Election. By conducting 14 focus groups with people in England, Scotland and Wales the project investigated, qualitatively, pre- and post-election views. The aim was to generate data that: 1) provided insights into the views and perceptions of citizens on politicians, party leaders, and political issues (e.g. civic duty, political alienation, political activism) before and after the general election; 2) allowed for analysis of the meaning that underlies their assessments, uncover sources of normative values, and make explicit the tacit assumptions participants use to reach their judgements. Three additional focus groups were conducted on the night of the first ever Leaders’ Debates and the transcripts record people’s expectations in advance of the debates and their reactions afterwards. As well as the focus group transcripts, the collection includes a quantitative file of results from the pre-focus group questionnaire given to participants.
And watch this space – comparable data from the 2015 UK elections will be arriving shortly.
What could be better than QL data? Getting funded to do research with QL data! The ESRC has a programme, the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative, which does just that. It offers funding for up to 18 months and £200,000 for research that collects no new data, but uses data from selected existing resources. One of the designated resources is Timescapes, a rich lode of QL data. Another, the Qualitative Archives on Ageism and Conflict, is held at the Northern Ireland Qualitative Archive.
As always, if you want any help getting starting or looking for data, just get in touch.