Making the Long View: Perspectives on context from a qualitative longitudinal (QL) study

Holland, Janet; Henderson, Sheila and Thomson, Rachel (2006). Making the Long View: Perspectives on context from a qualitative longitudinal (QL) study. Methodological Innovations Online, 1(2)



Questions of context and reflexivity have been central to recent debates about the archiving and re-use of qualitative data but these questions have been understood in different ways. In this paper, we suggest that our experiences of attempting to analyse, interpret, write-up and, more recently, archive the (prospective and retrospective) biographical data we have collected over the decade 1996-2006, can shed useful light on these questions. First, we consider the lack of analytical closure involved in QL research, the habit of constant recontextualisation and the complex understandings of time we formed as a consequence, arguing that, whilst qualitative data may be historically embedded and subjective, it can never be understood as being ‘out of time’ or ‘beyond the reach’ of the same or other researchers. In the QL context, the researcher becomes a subject of the research and, as such, a form of researcher’s reflexivity is required that recognises movement and contingency in all aspects of analysis, interpretation and representation. Then we outline how the understanding of time that emerged over the period of our research: - biographical, historical and research time – provided us with a useful conceptual framework for re-contextualising our study in the form of an archive.

The paper begins by describing the dataset; our motivations for attempting to archive it and our aims for the Making the Long View project.

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