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Qualitative Secondary Analysis and Social Explanation
By: Sarah Irwin, Mandy Winterton, Volume 17 (2)
Abstract: The current paper takes as a focus some issues relating to the possibility for, and effective conduct of, qualitative secondary data analysis. We consider some challenges for the re-use of qualitative research data, relating to researcher distance from the production of primary data, and related constraints on knowledge of the proximate contexts of data production. With others we argue that distance and partial knowledge of proximate contexts may constrain secondary analysis but that its success is contingent on its objectives. So long as data analysis is fit for purpose then secondary analysis is no poor relation to primary analysis. We argue that a set of middle range issues has been relatively neglected in debates about secondary analysis, and that there is much that can be gained from more critical reflection on how salient contexts are conceptualised, and how they are accessed, and assumed, within methodologies and extant data sets. We also argue for more critical reflection on how effective knowledge claims are built. We develop these arguments through a consideration of ESRC Timescapes qualitative data sets with reference to an illustrative analysis of gender, time pressure and work/family commitments. We work across disparate data sets and consider strategies for translating evidence, and engendering meaningful analytic conversation, between them.