Qualitative Archives and Biographical Research Methods. An Introduction to the FQS Special Issue


  • Miguel S. Valles Universidad Complutense de Madrid
  • Louise Corti ESDS Qualidata
  • Maria Tamboukou University of East London
  • Alejandro Baer Universität Bayreuth




qualitative archives, biographical research, re-analysis


The use of archival materials as a point of departure when designing and launching social research takes for granted that a culture of archiving (for sharing and re-use) has rooted time ago in our complex societies. This mentality and research practice first flourished and is fairly well installed in the case of statistics, surveys and certain other primary or secondary documents. On the contrary, it is less frequent and certainly not a routine activity for qualitative data. Only some of the raw and elaborated materials gathered during qualitative research become part of an archive for further reanalysis. These can include the backstage practices and experiences of a project, raw materials such as field notes, audio and visual recordings, and other documents produced during the research process. This issue presents a colorful range of articles that deal with experiences, challenges and opportunities of archiving and re-using qualitative material, particularly under the umbrella of biographical and narrative research.  It aims to raise awareness of the importance of archiving in qualitative social research and highlights some of the new methodological reflections and approaches that have been and that are being developed within the European landscape. We hope that the articles in this issue will help promote further communication and exchange among qualitative archival practitioners from different countries and with different sensitivities and conceptual horizons.

URN: http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs110381


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Author Biographies

Miguel S. Valles, Universidad Complutense de Madrid

Miguel S. VALLES is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University Complutense of Madrid. His research interests include: social research methodology (combination of quantitative and qualitative methods); history and sociology of social research methods (society, life and methods); qualitative interviewing; grounded theory and qualitative analysis (manual and computer assisted). His main research focus has been within sociology of population (youth, old age, migration). As member of the EUROQUAL Steering Committee (2006-2010) he was responsible for the organization of the Madrid "Archives and Life-History Research Workshop" (21-23 September 2009).

Louise Corti, ESDS Qualidata

Louise CORTI is an Associate Director at the UK Data Archive, having strategic and line-management responsibilities for the sections of ESDS Qualidata, Outreach & Training and Research Data Management Support Services. She is also Principal Investigator on three awards on research data sharing and data management and a co-investigator on the ESRC/EPSRC TEL Ensemble project. She regularly acts as consultant for new qualitative data archives which are setting up. Her research activities are focused in three main areas: re-purposing social science research data for learning and teaching; new methods for sharing and re-using qualitative research data; and standards and technologies for archiving and presenting digital social science data. Before joining the Archive in 2000, she was Deputy Director of Qualidata, the world first national qualitative data archive, from 1994. She has taught sociology, social research methods and statistics, and spent six years working on the design, implementation and analysis of the British Household Panel Study at Essex. She has authored a virtual tutorial for social research methods and has edited journals and published on the sharing and re-use of qualitative data.

Maria Tamboukou, University of East London

Dr Maria TAMBOUKOU is Professor in Sociology and Co-director of the Centre of Narrative Research, at the University of East London, UK. Her research interests and publications are in auto/biographical narratives, feminist theories, Foucauldian and Deleuzian analytics, the sociology of gender and education, gender and space and the sociology of culture. Recent publications include the monographs: "In the Fold between Power and Desire: Women Artists' Narratives" (2010); "Nomadic Narratives: Gwen John's Letters and Paintings" (2010); "Visual Lives: Carrington's Letters, Drawings and paintings" (2010); and the co-edited collections: "Doing Narrative Research" (2008) and "Beyond Narrative Coherence" (2010).

Alejandro Baer, Universität Bayreuth

Alejandro BAER is Assistant Professor at the Chair of Sociology of Culture and Religion at University of Bayreuth (Germany). His research focuses on social memory theory, qualitative methods of social research—particularly visual methods—and the sociology of contemporary Judaism. He has worked on video-testimonies of Holocaust survivors, the Spanish "Recovery of Historical Memory" movement, as well as on antisemitism and Holocaust memory in Spain. He is the author of the books "Holocausto. Recuerdo y representación" (2006), "El testimonio audiovisual" (2005), and co-editor of "España y el Holocausto" (2007).




How to Cite

Valles, M. S., Corti, L., Tamboukou, M., & Baer, A. (2011). Qualitative Archives and Biographical Research Methods. An Introduction to the FQS Special Issue. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(3). https://doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.3.1755

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