Wandering of the beaten track re-using qualitative data in doctoral by tar19045


									 Wandering off the beaten track: re-using qualitative data in doctoral research
                                 Janet Heaton
                              University of York

Key points

My experience of doing qualitative secondary analysis in doctoral research has been
shaped by three key factors:
    Doing a PhD on a part-time basis while working full-time as a contract
    Re-using qualitative data for my PhD from one of the projects that I undertook
       as a contract researcher.
    The lack of information and advice about how to go about doing secondary
       analysis of qualitative data.

The project and the thesis
While the project aims and objectives did not change, my thesis underwent a
    The project was looking at informal carers' perspectives on hospital discharge
       arrangements for young adults with physical and complex disabilities. It was
       funded by the Physical and Complex Disabilities programme for 20 months
       and was carried out by myself, Hilary Arksey and Tricia Sloper.
    For my PhD I initially planned to re-use data from the project and look at the
       development of hospital discharge policy and practice from a Foucauldian
    I felt unsure about how to conceptualise my approach until I read an article by
       Sally Thorne (1994) exploring the potential of qualitative secondary analysis.
       This paper was a turning point for me. I ended up flipping the thesis on its
       head and making it about the nature and use of the methodology, drawing on
       my and other researchers’ experiences of re-using data from qualitative
       research studies.

Benefits and drawbacks of re-using qualitative data
What have been the benefits and drawbacks of re-using qualitative data from contract
research that I previously carried out?

    I was involved in collecting the original data that I later re-used and so was
       familiar with the context of the study and the methods of data collection that
       were used.
    I had easy access to the data set.
    For 20 months I was working on collecting and analysing a dataset while
       simultaneously working on the PhD using the same material.
    I was able to collect additional related documents (eg local discharge policy
       documents) while working on the project.
    The data were professionally transcribed for the project so I did not have to do
       this myself

      The data were entered onto NUDIST for analysis, and I re-coded them for the
      The project had deadlines that helped to push the PhD along.
      I was able to explore aspects of the data that I otherwise might not have been
       able to do because of funding constraints.

    Carrying out project work full-time at the same time as carrying out an
     increasingly distinct PhD project part-time.
    Where does secondary analysis start and primary research stop?
    Informed consent – did this cover my secondary work?
    Re-using data without inviting colleagues who also collected the data to
     partake in the secondary analysis (because it was for a PhD and therefore had
     to be one's own original contribution to knowledge).
    Relative lack of status to 'methodological' v 'substantive' research undertaken
     for PhD.
    Attempting to do qualitative secondary analysis in the absence of guidelines
     on this (hence my research became partly about investigating how researcher's
     had gone about re-using their own or other researcher's data in order to make
     this more explicit and explore the issues involved). Does one need to get
     informed consent? How does one select data to include/exclude in secondary
     analysis? What methods of analysis work when re-using qualitative data?
     When is data fit to be used for other purposes? Does it matter if the secondary
     analyst was involved in collecting the data or not? How does secondary
     analysis of qualitative data differ from other qualitative methods such as
     documentary analysis and qualitative forms of meta-analysis? How can a mix
     of secondary and primary data be used in qualitative research?

Summary and final thoughts
   Qualitative secondary analysis is not an easy option!
   Qualitative secondary analysis is not as well developed or recognised as
    quantitative secondary analysis.
   Qualitative secondary analysis has been and can be used to undertake original
   There is still methodological work to be done to inform best approaches to re-
    using qualitative data.
   Opportunities for re-using qualitative data are growing: especially for archived
    data thanks to Qualidata. Also some interest overseas – so lots of potential to
    be realised.


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