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Sociological Research Online 4 (3) hammersley
Keywords: Constructionism; Reflexivity; Sociological Theory; Sociology's Role; Value Neutrality
Abstract: In this paper I argue against the influential 'mission statement' offered by Alvin Gouldner in his book For Sociology. This treats the discipline as supplying a reflexive perspective on social life that will lead political action towards the realisation of Enlightenment ideals. I point out that Gouldner is inconsistently reflexive, preserving his own position from the corrosive effects of the kind of sociological analysis he applies in criticising others. I contrast this with the reflexivity advocated by Steve Woolgar, deriving from the sociology of scientific knowledge. Woolgar suggests that reflexivity is always selective, and that (contrary to Gouldner) there is no sociological essence to be realised. Instead, the task for sociologists is to construct and reconstruct both sociology and its context, so as to bring off a practically successful mode of knowledge production. I argue that while Woolgar's position points to some genuine problems, it too is unsatisfactory. This is because he shares with Gouldner the assumption that a sociological perspective can be the basis for action in the world; what might be called the 'grand conception' of its role. I conclude that a more modest approach is required, similar to the position taken by Max Weber. This treats sociology as no more than a source of specialised factual knowledge about the world. Its practical value is considerable, but nevertheless limited. Above all, it cannot offer a self-sufficient answer to questions about 'what's wrong?' or 'what is to be done?'.
Sociological Research Online 12 (3) 1
Keywords: ESDS Qualidata / Qualitative Methodology / Reusing Qualitative Data / Secondary Analysis / Secondary Data
Abstract: Recent interest by social scientists in the questions posed by reusing qualitative data has been prompted by two related events. The first is the establishment of the Qualitative Data Archival Resource Centre (QUALIDATA, and, since 2003, ESDS Qualidata) at the University of Essex in 1994. The second is the publication of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Datasets Policy (1996) which asks that those in receipt of ESRC grants offer copies of their data for deposit to QUALIDATA. This perceived injunction to archive data has been met with resistance by recalcitrant researchers who are wary of the implications of depositing data, and the possibilities of reusing data. The debate risks becoming polarised between those advocating the archiving and reuse of qualitative data, and those more sceptical of these possibilities. This paper aims to open up this debate and to seek a more fruitful path between these positions. I begin by calling into question the supposed 'newness' of reusing qualitative data, through turning to examine some of the assumptions embedded in the key terms and premises of the debate thus far, including the reliance on distinctions between primary and secondary data and primary and secondary analysis. I examine some common tropes in accounts of reusing data: comparisons with secondary analysis of quantitative data; efforts to distinguish between reusing qualitative data in a sociological context and other disciplinary and methodological traditions; and reliance on particular interpretations of key principles of qualitative research, context and reflexivity, in establishing the challenges of the reusing of qualitative data. I suggest that reuse may be more productively understood as a process of recontextualising data, and that attending to the reflexive production of data in the contemporary research project may offer more hopeful possibilities for reuse. I conclude by offering some reflections on why discussions of reusing qualitative data appear to have become so fraught.
Sociological Research Online 12 (3) 2
Keywords: Convenience Food, Data Archives, Qualitative Data, Reflexivity, Data Re-Use, Secondary Analysis
Abstract: Though secondary analysis of qualitative data is becoming more prevalent, relatively few methodological studies exist that provide reflection on the actual, not idealised, process. This paper offers a reflexive account of secondary analysis focused on the topic of convenience food and choice. Several phases of the research process are examined: understanding context, defining a subject area, finding data and sampling, later sampling and topic refinement, and relating to transcripts. For each phase, I explore if reusing data is different from using it in the first instance, and if so, how those differences manifest themselves. The paper closes with reflections on the differences, similarities, and relationships between primary and secondary analysis of qualitative data. Although differences exist regarding the researcher-respondent relationship, primary and secondary analyses are more alike than not. The suitability of each approach can only be assessed in light of a particular research question.
Sociological Research Online 12 (3) 3
Keywords: Qualitative Research / Re-Using Qualitative Data / Secondary Analysis / Investigative Epistemology
Abstract: This article is written to accompany and respond to the articles that form the special issue of Sociological Research Online on 'Re-using qualitative data'. It argues that the articles are a welcome contribution, because they help to move the debate beyond moralistic and polarised positions, to demonstrate instead with what sociologists can achieve by 're-using' qualitative data. The article argues for an investigative epistemology and investigative practices to guide qualitative data use and 're-use', and suggests that this is particularly important in the current social research climate.
Susan M. Hodgson and Tom Clark
Sociological Research Online 12 (3) 9
Keywords: Grid Technology, E-Social Science, Secondary Analysis, Visual Sociology, Humanities Computing
Abstract: Abstract This paper explores some of the implications for qualitative researchers within sociology, of developments in Grid technology and thereby aim to contribute to the debate on the future of sociological research in an increasingly digitised world. The well-established field of humanities computing provides an interesting counterpoint. We use the methodological techniques of 'secondary analysis' and 'visual research', two currently marginal approaches within sociological research but with huge potential within e-environments, as lenses through which the potentials and pitfalls of Grid-supported qualitative work might be anticipated. Rather than a concern with the technical however, we argue for a concurrent attention to the methodological in relation to technological developments. We find that current developments in the qualitative field are more in line with the interests of the humanities and this may shape and constrain the research that sociologists could do. Also, that the conditions to support innovative sociological developments for qualitative Grid computing are not currently well developed or supported. We conclude that in order for a more progressive e-social science agenda to emerge, a broader constituency of sociological researchers should engage with the technological debate, otherwise we risk missing out on opportunities to shape emerging technologies to our research needs.
Sociological Research Online 15 (1) 5
Keywords: Re-Use of Qualitative Data, Secondary Analysis, Qualitative Data Archiving, Constructionism
Abstract: The potential gains and practical problems associated with secondary analysis of qualitative data have received increasing attention in recent years. The discussions display conflicting attitudes, some commentators emphasising the difficulties while others emphasise the benefits. In a few recent contributions the distinctiveness of re-using data has come to be questioned, on the grounds that the problems identified with it of data not fitting the research questions, and of relevant contextual knowledge being absent are by no means limited to secondary analysis. There has also been a more fundamental claim: to the effect that these problems are much less severe once we recognise that all data are constituted and re-constituted within the research process. In this article I examine these arguments, concluding that while they have much to commend them, they do not dissolve the problems of 'fit' and 'context'.
Sarah Nettleton and Emma Uprichard
Sociological Research Online 16 (2) 5
Keywords: Mass Observation Archive; Food and Eating; Qualitative; Personal Food Narratives; Secondary Analysis; Longitudinal
Abstract: This paper reports on an analysis of hitherto unexamined documentary data on food held within the UK Mass Observation Archive (MOA). In particular it discusses responses to the 1982 Winter Directive which asked MOA correspondents about their experiences of food and eating, and the food diaries submitted by MOA panel members in 1945. What is striking about these data is the extent to which memories of food and eating are interwoven with recollections of the lifecourse; in particular social relations, family life, and work. It seems asking people about food generates insight into aspects of everyday life. In essence, memories of food provide a crucial and potentially overlooked medium for developing an appreciation of social change. We propose the concept 'food narratives' to capture the essence of these reflections because they reveal something more than personal stories; they are both individual and collective experiences in that personal food narratives draw upon shared cultural repertoires, generational memories, and tensions between age cohorts. Food narratives are embodied and embedded in social networks, socio-cultural contexts and socio-economic epochs. Thus the daily menus recorded in 1945 and memories scribed in 1982 do not simply communicate what people ate, liked and disliked but throw light on two contrasting moments of British history; the end of the second world war and an era of transition, reform, individualization, diversity which was taking place in the early 1980s.
John S. McKenzie
Sociological Research Online 16 (3) 7
Keywords: Tibetan Buddhism, Scotland, Transplantation, Reflexive Modernization, Detraditionalization, Social Constructionism
Abstract: Many studies on the westward transplantation of Buddhism focus on the retention of traditional authenticity. The sociological perspective provided here moves the emphasis to the social construction of such claims. The social construction of traditional authenticity will be explored through a study of the Tibetan Buddhist organisation, Rokpa Scotland (RS) and it will be demonstrated that RS constructs claims to traditional authenticity by adapting to the local culture whilst demonstrating links with an ancient practice. These claims are then reified by limiting adaptations and retaining core features associated with Buddhism. None the less adapting to the West can be seen as detraditionalization and can present a threat to claims to traditional authenticity. However, RS can claim to control the detraditionalization process by responding to the effects of reflexive modernization and controlling the flow of information. In controlling detraditionalization RS provides the plausibility structures to maintain claims to traditional authenticity.
Jo Haynes and Demelza Jones
Sociological Research Online 17 (2) 1
Keywords: Secondary Analysis; Research Methodology; Class; British Migration; Bourdieu
Abstract: This article provides a unique contribution to the debates about archived qualitative data by drawing on two uses of the same data - British Migrants in Spain: the Extent and Nature of Social Integration, 2003-2005 - by Jones (2009 ) and Oliver and O'Reilly (2010), both of which utilise Bourdieu's concepts analytically and produce broadly similar findings. We argue that whilst the insights and experiences of those researchers directly involved in data collection are important resources for developing contextual knowledge used in data analysis, other kinds of critical distance can also facilitate credible data use. We therefore challenge the assumption that the idiosyncratic relationship between context, reflexivity and interpretation limits the future use of data. Moreover, regardless of the complex genealogy of the data itself, given the number of contingencies shaping the qualitative research process and thus the potential for partial or inaccurate interpretation, contextual familiarity need not be privileged over other aspects of qualitative praxis such as sustained theoretical insight, sociological imagination and methodological rigour.
Joanna Bornat, Parvati Raghuram and Leroi Henry
Sociological Research Online 17 (2) 11
Keywords: Secondary Analysis, Archived Data, South Asian Doctors, Geriatricians, Oral History
Abstract: Using two data sets in parallel, generated at different times by different researchers, the case is made for the re-use of archived qualitative data. Two sets of oral history interviews one, dating from 1990-1, with doctors and others who pioneered the development of the geriatric specialty in the early years of the National Health Service, the other, ESRC funded during 2007-9, with South Asian doctors who came to work in the UK and found work in geriatric medicine, are subjected to parallel investigation. The article argues that by considering the two sets of interviews together, each informs the other, leading to reconceptualisation and unexpected links between the data sets, new research questions and finally suggests additional dimensions to issues relating to the ethics of secondary analysis.
Sarah Irwin and Mandy Winterton
Sociological Research Online 17 (2) 4
Keywords: Qualitative Research Methods, Secondary Analysis, Re-Use, Gender, Time Pressure
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.
Sociological Research Online 19 (3) 21
Keywords: Qualitative Secondary Analysis (QSA), Reflexive Sociology, Research Boundaries, Sample Characterisation, Space, Objects
Abstract: Maintaining a ‘critical reflexivity’ (Heaphy 2008) or ‘investigative epistemology’ (Mason 2007) in relation to the sedimented assumptions built up over the course of one’s own research history and embedded in common research boundaries, is difficult. The type of secondary analysis discussed in this paper is not an easy or quick ‘fix’ to the important issue of how such assumptions can embed themselves over time in methods chosen and questions asked. Even though archived studies are often accompanied by relatively detailed metadata, finding relevant data and getting a grasp on a sample, is time-consuming. However, it is argued that close examination of rawer data than those presented in research reports from carefully chosen studies combining similar foci and epistemological approaches but with differently situated samples, can help. Here, this process highlighted assumptions underlying the habitual disciplinary locations and constructions of so-called ‘vulnerable’ as opposed to ‘ordinary’ samples, leading the author to scrutinise aspects of her previous research work in this light and providing important insights for the development of further projects.