Archiving Qualitative Data in the Context of a Society Coming out of Conflict: Some Lessons from Northern Ireland


  • Dirk Schubotz Queen’s University
  • Martin Melaugh University of Ulster
  • Peter McLoughlin Queen’s University



Northern Ireland, archiving, remembering, conflict, biographies


ARK (Access Research Knowledge) was set up with a single goal: to make social science information on Northern Ireland available to the widest possible audience. The most well-known and widely used part of the ARK resource is CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet), which is one of the largest on-line collections of source material and information and about the Northern Ireland conflict.

The compilation of CAIN's new Remembering: Victims, Survivors and Commemoration section raised issues related to the sensitivity of the material, as it feeds into the fundamental debate on the legacy of the Northern Ireland conflict. It also fundamentally raises the question to what extent archiving is a neutral or political activity and necessitates a discourse on responsibility and ethics among social researchers. Experiences from the establishment of the Northern Ireland Qualitative Archive (NIQA) shed light on future possibilities with regard to qualitative archives on the Northern Ireland conflict.



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Author Biographies

Dirk Schubotz, Queen’s University

Dirk SCHUBOTZ is currently Research Fellow with ARK and is based at Queen's University Belfast. He directs Young Life and Times, an annual study of 16 year olds in Northern Ireland. Dirk's main research interests are: research methods, particularly participatory and biographical methods; young people; sexual and mental health and community relations in Northern Ireland. Dirk has recently also been involved in a Framework 7 funded project on European identity (Euroidentity).

Martin Melaugh, University of Ulster

Martin MELAUGH is a Research Fellow at the University of Ulster and Director of the CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) website. The CAIN site provides information and source materials related to the Northern Ireland conflict and politics in the region, from 1968 to the present. CAIN was first made publicly available in March 1997. One key aim has been to help individuals, groups and organizations to make their own materials more easily available on-line; these contributions are to be found in the many "associated sites" within CAIN.

Peter McLoughlin, Queen’s University

Peter McLOUGHLIN is a Lecturer in the School of Politics, International Studies and Philosophy, Queen's University Belfast. His research background is in Irish history and politics, with particular emphasis on Irish nationalism and the Northern Ireland problem. However, he now teaches more broadly on the subjects of: divided societies; political violence, terrorism and security; and research methods. He worked with the ARK team from 2006 to 2007.




How to Cite

Schubotz, D., Melaugh, M., & McLoughlin, P. (2011). Archiving Qualitative Data in the Context of a Society Coming out of Conflict: Some Lessons from Northern Ireland. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(3).



Archival and Biographical Research Projects (and Initiatives) in Six European Countries