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Whose Data Are They Anyway? Practical, Legal and Ethical Issues in Archiving Qualitative Research Data

Odette Parry and Natasha S. Mauthner
Sociology
Vol. 38, No. 1 (FEBRUARY 2004), pp. 139-152
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42856598
Page Count: 14
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Abstract

Social scientists are increasingly encouraged to locate, access and analyse data from data archives worldwide. Although the vast majority of data archives which service the research community deal exclusively with the storage and provision of quantitative data, facilities also exist for the deposit and reuse of qualitative data. While archiving is generally understood as relatively unproblematic by the quantitative research community, there has been a mixed reaction to data archiving among qualitative social science researchers. Much of this concern stems from the assumption that qualitative data are similar to, and may therefore be treated in the same way as, quantitative data. However the joint construction of qualitative data between researcher and respondent has important implications for the ownership and control of research material. The article suggests that the archiving of qualitative data raises a distinct set of issues surrounding confidentiality, respondent and researcher anonymity and respondent consent. It examines some of the practical, legal and ethical issues which may affect the archiving of qualitative research data, and in doing so it reflects on the viability of using qualitative data for theoretical and substantive secondary analysis. It also highlights the importance of drawing on the experience of other disciplines, such as oral history, with a longer tradition of archiving in order to develop appropriate disciplinary guidance for social scientists engaged in qualitative research.

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