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Qualitative Secondary Analysis: Asking ‘new’ questions of ‘old’ data. Brenda M. Gladstone Tiziana Volpe Community Health Systems Resource Group The Hospital for Sick Children QUIG, April 23, 2008. Introduction. Little published ‘evidence’ of benefits & limitations 1

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qualitative secondary analysis asking new questions of old data

Qualitative Secondary Analysis: Asking ‘new’ questions of ‘old’ data

Brenda M. Gladstone

Tiziana Volpe

Community Health Systems Resource Group

The Hospital for Sick Children

QUIG, April 23, 2008

  • Little published ‘evidence’ of benefits & limitations1
  • Lack of guidance about QSA process, methodological decision-making or evaluative criteria2,3
  • Need for empirical exemplars1
  • Why now? emergence of data archiving and advances in computing
  • Promotion of data sharing and data retention in policy and practice (ESRC & Qualidata in the UK)

1Corti & Thompson, 2004

2Thorne, 1994;1998

3Sandelowski, 1997

defining qsa
Defining QSA
  • Reuse of existing data, collected for prior purposes, a term used to describe various analytical practices to:
      • investigate new questions, or a new perspective on an old question.
      • corroborate, validate or refine original (primary) analysis
  • Inclusion of meta-research designs (meta-synthesis; meta-analysis; meta-ethnography) is contentious
  • Qualitative longitudinal research
why do qsa
Why do QSA?
  • Generate new knowledge; new hypotheses/questions; to support existing theories
  • Expand/extend, data sets/participant numbers and analysis
  • Enable comparative research in different geographical/temporal(historical)/cultural contexts
  • Generalizability of findings, data from different researchers researching similar populations
  • Methodological and substantive teaching tool
why do qsa con t
Why do QSA (con’t.)?
  • Student projects
  • Existing databases represent considerable financial and temporal commitments
  • Respondent fatigue; burden to ‘talk more’; sensitivity to those living stressful lives; vulnerable, inaccessible populations
  • Development of archival data
types of qsa heaton 1998 2004
Types of QSA (Heaton, 1998; 2004)
  • Supra analysis: transcends original focus examining new empirical, theoretical, methodological questions
  • Supplementary analysis: more in-depth investigation of an emergent issue or aspect of data not fully considered in primary study
  • Re-analysis: data are re-analyzed to verify and corroborate primary analyses of qualitative data sets
  • Amplified analysis: combines data from 2 or more primary studies for the purposes of comparison or to enlarge a sample
  • Assorted analysis: combines secondary analysis of data with primary research and/or analysis of naturalistic data
theoretical methodological ethical and practical challenges related to qsa
Theoretical, methodological, ethical and practical challenges related to QSA
  • Nature of qualitative data
  • Problem of data ‘fit’
  • Problem of ‘not having been there’
  • Problem of verification
  • Researcher(s) relationship to primary data
doing qsa a case example
Doing QSA: A case example

The Original Study:

  • Understanding social factors influencing motivation while living with schizophrenia or first episode psychosis (FEP)
  • 60 in-depth interviews
    • People diagnosed with schizophrenia
    • Young people experiencing FEP
    • Parents
    • Health Professionals
  • Interviews transcribed and entered into Ethnograph
doing qsa a case example1
Doing QSA: A case example

The QSA Study

  • A ‘supra analysis’ of a subset of interviews with parents whose children had experienced a first episode of psychosis
  • Purpose: ask new questions of primary data about parents’ help-seeking experiences
  • Data consisted of 10 interview transcripts with 7 mothers, 3 fathers
  • Consent from original participants not obtained for QSA
challenges encountered
Challenges Encountered
  • Establishing quality
  • Context
  • Documentation
  • Funding
  • Ethics
qsa challenges establishing quality
QSA Challenges: Establishing Quality
  • Establishing rigor/trustworthiness: criteria for primary/secondary analysis, equally applicable?
  • Availability of original transcripts and documents
  • Role of original researchers
  • Context in which data was collected
  • Sampling issues
  • Analytic framework
qsa challenges context
QSA Challenges: Context
  • Considering the historical, biographical, and theoretical contexts in which the primary study was conducted
    • Field of ‘early intervention’
    • Help-seeking processes
    • Researcher location; disciplinary training
    • Role of researcher in design & implementation of study
qsa challenges documentation
QSA Challenges: Documentation
  • Availability/quality of primary study documents
    • Transcripts
    • Demographic information
    • Audio recordings
    • Field notes; analytic notes
  • Technological changes
  • Human & financial resources
qsa challenges funding
QSA Challenges: Funding
  • Funding a secondary analysis:
    • Who funds it?
    • What is it worth?
    • Is it cost effective?
    • Data storage and archival costs?
qsa challenges ethics
QSA Challenges: Ethics
  • Obtaining REB approval
  • Informed consent
    • Does re-using data violate original consent?
    • Is it feasible and/or appropriate to go back to participants?
    • Building in consent for future studies
  • Confidentiality/Anonymity
    • What is anonymization in the context of QSA
    • What is enough anonymization
  • Data stockpiling…just in case
emerging guidelines for qsa
Emerging Guidelines for QSA
  • Suggested guidelines for documentation:
    • Information regarding interaction between researcher/participants
    • The ‘whole interview’ not just the parts
    • Background information about the interviewer (age, gender, race, social class)
    • Place, time, setting
    • How participants were approached/recruited
    • Information about relevant others (gatekeepers)
isa rc33 7th international conference in naples september 1 5 2008
ISA-RC33 7th International Conference in Naples, September 1-5, 2008
  • Session 1: Making qualitative data more re-usable: defining issues of context and


  • Session 2: Making qualitative data more re-usable: technical solutions for capturing

context and representation

We would like to invite papers that consider issues around the effective archiving and further (re)use of raw qualitative research data, with a particular focus on the issues of how context is defined and (re)captured.

going forward
Going Forward
  • Archiving primary data and documentation
    • audio-tapes, interviews, transcripts, field-notes, journals, photos?
    • how is it organized, managed, and stored?
  • Who owns the data? Who is responsible for data? How is credit for the primary/secondary analysis established?
  • SSHRC Research Data Archiving Policy
  • Cisneros Puebla, C., Mruk, K., & Roth, W. Editorial: The FSQ Issue on “Qualitative inquiry: Research, archiving and reuse”. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum:Qualitative Social Research [on-line journal], Art.45. Available at: http://www.qualitative-research.net/fqs-texte/2-05/05-2-45.e.htm/. Accessed August 15, 2005.
  • Corti, L, Thompson, P. Secondary analysis of archived data. In: Seale, C, Gobo, G, Gubrium, JF, Silverman, D. Eds. Qualitative Research Practice. London: Sage Publications, 2004: 327-343.
  • Fielding, N.G. Getting the most from archived qualitative data: epistemological, practical and professional obstacles. International of Social Research Methodology, 2004; 7: 97-104.
  • Gladstone, B., Volpe, T. & Boydell, K. Issues encountered in a qualitative secondary analysis of help-seeking in the prodrome to psychosis. The Journal of Behavioral Health Services & Research, 2007; 34(4): 431-442.
  • Heaton, J. Reworking Qualitative Data. London: Sage, 2004.
  • Heaton, J. Secondary Analysis of Qualitative Data. Social Research Update 22 Guildford: University of Surrey, Institute of Social Research; Available at: http://sru.soc.surrey.ac.uk/, 1998; Accessed June 24, 2004.
  • Hinds, P.S., Vogel, R.J. & Clarke-Steffen, L. The possibilities and pitfalls of doing a secondary analysis of a qualitative data set. Qualitative Health Research, 1997; 7(3): 408-424.
  • Mauthner, N., Parry, O. & Backett-Milburn, K. The data are out there, or are they: Implications for archiving and revisiting qualitative data. Sociology, 1998; 32(4): 733-745.
  • Sandelowski, M. “To be of use”: Enhancing the utility of qualitative research. Nursing Outlook, 1997;45: 125-132.
  • Thorne, S. Secondary analysis in qualitative research: issues and implications. In: Morse, JM, (ed.) Critical Issues in Qualitative Research Methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1994: 263-279.
  • Thorne, S. Ethical and representational issues in qualitative secondary analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 1998; 8: 547-555.
  • www.esds.ac.uk/qualidata