First steps in qualitative secondary analysis: experiences of engaging with the primary research team

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Engaging with primary researchers during qualitative secondary analysis is a practice much recommended but rarely written about. In this article, I reflect on my experience of crossing an imagined boundary between the discrete textual dataset and its creators, of acknowledging and engaging with those researchers who invested in constructing the data, some of whom are still actively working with it. Focusing on four rationales for engaging with primary researchers - orientation, navigation, interpretation and the ethics of ownership - I describe the opportunities, tensions and dilemmas that presented themselves as I entered into dialogue with members of the primary research team. As the encouragement of rapid archiving practices and open qualitative research present new possibilities in working with contemporary ‘living’ archives, so it also raises new methodological and ethical considerations regarding engagement with and relationality towards primary researchers still active in their fields.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Social Research Methodology
Publication statusPublished - 25 Oct 2023


  • Qualitative secondary analysis; reflexivity; ethics; qualitative archives; open qualitative research

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