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

  • Jo-Anne Kelder University of Tasmania
Keywords: ethics, secondary data, distributed cognition theory, weather forecasting


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


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Author Biography

Jo-Anne Kelder, University of Tasmania
Jo-Anne KELDER is a PhD candidate with the School of Information Systems at the University of Tasmania and the Smart Internet Technology Collaborative Research Centre. She has joined the SITCRC as part of the User Centred Design project, particularly its ongoing methodology developments. She is interested in complex work environments that are highly dependent on information systems and where there are lots of social, cultural and technical issues that need to be identified and understood if new technologies and work processes are to fit the natural work environment. She plans to investigate innovative research methodologies that capture user experiences and insights; then to deploy those methods in a manner that is conducive to generating a process of user-centred or participative design. The particular focus can enable the translation of user insights and experiences into design requirements for intelligent Internet technology solutions for current and future complex systems.
How to Cite
Kelder, J.-A. (2005). Using Someone Else’s Data: Problems, Pragmatics and Provisions. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(1).