Using Someone Else's Data: Problems, Pragmatics and Provisions

Jo-Anne Kelder


In the current climate of requirements for ethical research, qualitative research data is often archived at the end of each unique research project. Yet qualitative data is capable of being revisited from multiple perspectives, and used to answer different research questions to those envisaged by the original data collector. Using other people's data saves time, avoids unnecessarily burdening your research participants, and adds confidence in interpreting your own data. This paper is a case of how data from one research project was acquired and then analysed to ground the analysis of a separate project using Distributed Cognition (Dcog) theory and its associated methodology, cognitive ethnography. Theoretical considerations were the benefits and difficulties of using multiple sources and types of data in creating a theoretical account of the observed situation. Methodological issues included how to use (and not misuse) other people's data and coherently integrate data collected over time and for different purposes. Current ethics guidelines come from a paradigm of control suited to experimental, quantitative research approaches. A new paradigm that recognises researchers' inherent lack of control over qualitative research contexts needs to be developed. This research demonstrates the benefits of designing an ethics application to provide for data reuse and giving participants choice over the level of protection they require.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0501396


ethics; secondary data; distributed cognition theory; weather forecasting

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Copyright (c) 2005 Jo-Anne Kelder

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