Archiving Longitudinal Data for Future Research. Why Qualitative Data Add to a Study's Usefulness


  • Jacquelyn B. James Harvard University
  • Annemette Sørensen Harvard University



archival data, longitudinal data, qualitative data, secondary analysis


In this paper we discuss the special challenges that data archives face when archiving and preparing for new research longitudinal studies with a large qualitative component. We discuss issues of confidentiality, how best to organize longitudinal data for future use, including ways in which to permit future follow-ups without compromising confidentiality, and ways to teach investigators how to plan for the archiving of their longitudinal research. The core of the paper, however, is an examination of the strengths that qualitative data lend to longitudinal studies for future researchers. Our main argument is that qualitative data to a much greater extent permit new investigators to look at the data in new ways than do quantitative data. We present examples of this based on re-analyses of data archived at the Murray Research Center. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0003235


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Author Biographies

Jacquelyn B. James, Harvard University

Jacquelyn JAMES, is associate director of the Henry A. Murray Research Center at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. James, who received her doctorate from Boston University in personality psychology, has focused her research on the meaning and complexity of gender, adult development, and motivation. Most of her work has involved using existing data within the archives of the Murray Center*restructuring qualitative data—to create new constructs and variables for a variety of research questions. While at the Murray Research Center, Dr. James has administered two three-year research programs sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation: "The Midlife Research Program" and "The Character and Competence Research Program." These programs have attracted leading scholars to the Murray Research Center to use both quantitative and qualitative data to conduct research on a range of topics relevant to each theme. The results of the analyses from both of these programs were published as edited volumes. The first, "Multiple Paths of Midlife Development" (University of Chicago Press) with coauthor Margie Lachman of Brandeis University, is an edited volume compiling twelve studies examining different aspects of midlife development. The second, similarly compiled, came out in 1998 and is entitled "Competence and Character Through Life," co-edited with Anne Colby and Daniel Hart (University of Chicago Press). In 1995, Dr. James organized a conference to address the controversy regarding gender differences, "Beyond Difference as Model for Studying Gender: In Search of New Stories to Tell." The issues addressed in this conference were published in a book, "The Significance of Gender: Theory and Research about Difference" which was published last summer as a special issue for the Journal of Social Issues). Dr. James has presented her work conducted in collaboration with Dr. Rosalind Barnett at an international conference on Women, Family and the Labor Market in Doha, Qatar—"The Effects of Disagreements About Gender Role Beliefs in Dual Earner Couples." Dr. James is a public lecturer and the author of numerous articles on midlife, personality and gender issues, and the use of archival data for new research.

Annemette Sørensen, Harvard University

Annemette SORENSEN, Director of the Murray Center, is a sociologist specializing in the study of gender stratification in North America and Europe. The sociology of the family, the life course of women and men in modern society, and the impact of public policy on gender relations are other research interests. Her current research is a comparative study of economic inequality between men and women in Europe and the US towards the end of the 20th century. This study is a continuation of her earlier work on married women's economic dependency. A major focus in the current research is to examine how men are affected by women's increasing earnings. Other recent research has focused on the risks associated with the post-nuclear family system with high divorce rates, high rates of childbearing outside marriage, and high employment rates for both parents and on the life course of women and men in the former German Democratic Republic. She received her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has taught there as well as at Harvard University and Boston University.




How to Cite

James, J. B., & Sørensen, A. (2000). Archiving Longitudinal Data for Future Research. Why Qualitative Data Add to a Study’s Usefulness. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 1(3).



Re-use and Secondary Analysis