Big Qual Analysis: Innovation in method and pedagogy

Principal Investigator: Lynn Jamieson, University of Edinburgh
Co-investigators: Ros Edwards, Susie Weller, Sarah Lewthwaite and Melanie Nind, Univeristy of Southampton

This new collaborative project aims to advance the capacities of researchers who work with pre-existing qualitative material from multiple data sets – an identified area of methodological strategic need, and of trainers who deliver the teaching of research methods. Large volumes of complex qualitative data are now available in repositories such as the ESRC Timescapes Archive and the UK Data Archive, presenting the possibility for ‘scaling up’ or conducting secondary data analysis across several, merged, qualitative studies. Yet, guidance about how best to work with and build skills in large scale qualitative data is scarce, as are resources to support effective teaching of methods of dealing with multiple sets of qualitative data. Two key questions are raised:

• How can qualitative researchers engage with and analyse large archived qualitative data sets, and
• How can research competencies to undertake this engagement best be developed pedagogically within the UK social science research community?

To address these key questions, the project brings together and capitalises on two innovative ESRC National Centre for Research Methods methodological initiatives. It combines (i) a novel, and much-needed method for the analysis of large sets of archived qualitative data (Big Qual) with (ii) cutting edge methods pedagogy. The project represents a new collaboration bringing together expertise from WP2 in conducting secondary analysis across existing data from several qualitative longitudinal studies and capabilities from WP5 in promoting pedagogical development for advanced social science research methods.

The project will contribute to the development of wider pedagogical culture, enhancing methods training and capacity building in the UK. In addition to the training sessions delivered to researchers and trainers across the UK as part of the capacity building strategy, and as an integral part of the project’s participatory evaluation approach, the research will result in suites of Open Education Resources (OERs) on the use and teaching of the ‘archaeological’ method as well as ‘quick start’ guides, a more extensive discussion paper, and podcast and video resources.