Teaching how to analyse large volumes of secondary qualitative data

Presenter(s): Sarah Lewthwaite, Lynn Jamieson (PI), Susie Weller, Ros Edwards, Melanie Nind.

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This online resource supplies a set open educational resources to support the development of research methods teaching on the analysis of large volumes of secondary qualitative data ('big qual' analysis). These were developed as part of a recent NCRM collaborative project Big Qual Analysis: Innovation in Method and Pedagogy which sought to advance the capacities of researchers who work with archived qualitative material from multiple data sets and of trainers who deliver the teaching of research methods. A working paper Developing pedagogy for 'Big Qual' methods: teaching how to analyse large volumes of secondary qualitative data (Lewthwaite et al. 2019) gives a detailed account of the project and salient findings for teachers, that expands upon the resources presented here.

Materials are presented in three collections:

First, the Student Collection is made up of learner-facing materials. These handouts, podcasts, activities and resources that are useful for learners as they gain familiarity with archives, secondary qualitative data, and Breadth-and-Depth methods for Big Qual Analysis. Teachers can use these resources to structure or augment learning. Alternatively, learners may want to use these for independent-learning.

The second collection is made up of resources for teacher development. These offer materials to promote pedagogic reflection, for teachers of large scale secondary qualitative data analysis and related methods. Resources here include quick guides to methods teaching, and typology for research methods teaching development.

Third, the teaching resources section lists a collection of resources for teachers to draw upon for lesson planning. This includes a set of pedagogic design patterns and a large scale qualitative secondary teaching data set.

Student Collection

This collection of method-focused resources can be used for both teaching, and by students of large scale archival and big qual methods for independent learning. The collection includes podcasts, handouts (including reference materials), guides, activities and visualisations. For teaching, podcasts can be particularly useful for sharing as advance materials ahead of teaching, alongside reading tasks. Handouts are useful in class, but also allow students to refer back to in class experiences and consolidate their learning in their own time. More detail about teaching with these materials are included alongside lesson plans, in the Teaching resources collection.

Using Big Qual Analysis

The following activities and materials can be used in conjunction with the above framework, dependent on the archives, tools and a teachers expertise:

Using Archives

This collection includes a podcast introducing the Timescapes archive, a guide for registration, as well as handouts and activities that introduce both Timescapes and the UK Data Archive.

Teacher Development Collection

This collection of resources offers research methods teachers a set of tools for thinking about the teaching and learning of big qual, alongside the teaching of research methods more broadly. The collection comprises a set of 5 quick guides for research methods teachers, to spark thinking and connect with research from the pedagogy of methodological learning study and the big qual analysis: innovation in method and pedagogy project. Two podcasts introduce key pedagogic and methodological concerns for methods teachers. In addition, for more in-depth reflexive work, a Typology for Research Methods Teaching Development workbook translates forthcoming research (Nind & Lewthwaite, 2019) for a big qual teaching context.


A typology for research methods teaching development

This document introduces the Typology for Social Sciences Research Methods Pedagogy as an applied framework for iterative and reflexive teaching development. The associated podcasts highlight the teaching challenges and opportunities associated with big qual and innovative methods in methods education.


Quick Guides for Methods Teachers

NCRM Quick Start Guides offer accessible discussions of key pedagogic practices for methods teachers, and big qual analysis in particular.


Teaching resources

This growing collection of teaching resources includes pedagogic design patterns and supporting materials. These resources are designed to assist teachers looking to develop lesson plans for big qual analysis and associated methods.

Pedagogic Design Patterns (also known as ‘pedagogical patterns’) aim to capture and communicate the essence of a teaching practice in an accessible format. Patterns share community knowledge so that it can be tested, debated and developed. This is particularly important for research methods teaching as it assists the development of pedagogic culture. Different aspects are required to document a pattern, and there are variations on any given scheme. The format we use incorporates Laurillard (2012) and Weisburgh (2004).

  1. Student Centred Learning for Big Qual Analysis (pdf, 3p)
  2. Supporting materials (also linked in the resource pdf):
  3. Using Metaphor for Big Qual Analysis
  4. Supporting materials (also linked in the resource pdf):
  5. A big qual data set for teaching is now available from the Timescapes Archive:
    • Weller, S., Davidson, E., Edwards, R., Jamieson, L., (2019) Big Qual Analysis: Teaching Dataset. University of Leeds, UK Timescapes Archive. https://doi.org/10.23635/14


These materials were developed as part of a collaboration project supported by the Economic and Social Research Council [grant number ES/L008351/1] via the National Centre for Research Methods Innovation Fund.

We would like to give special thanks to Kahryn Hughes, Director of the Timescapes Archive, for her role in developing our thinking around capacity building in the re-use of archived ESRC qualitative data sets

Related websites:

About the author

Professor Rosalind Edwards is a Professor of Sociology and co-director of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton. She is a founding and co-editor of the International Journal of Social Research Methodology, and has published widely on qualitative and mixed methods research.

Professor Lynn Jamieson is a Professor in Sociology at the University of Edinburgh, Co-Director of the Centre for Research on Families and Relationships and leads the research strand of NCRM at the University of Edinburgh.

Dr Sarah Lewthwaite is a Research Fellow at the National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton. Her expertise includes research methods pedagogy, learning sciences and accessible and inclusive research methodologies.

Professor Melanie Nind is a Professor of Education at the University of Southampton and co-director of the ESRC National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton. She is a co-editor of the International Journal of Research and Method in Education, and works in the areas of pedagogy, learning disability and qualitative and inclusive methodologies.

Dr Susie Weller is a Senior Research Fellow in the National Centre for Research Methods at the University of Southampton. Her expertise includes creative, participatory, and qualitative longitudinal methods and secondary analytic practice.

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