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Big data, qualitative style: a breadth‑and‑depth method for working with large amounts of secondary qualitative data

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363–376
Number of pages14
JournalQuality and Quantity
Issue number1
Early online date26 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019


Archival storage of data sets from qualitative studies presents opportunities for combining small-scale data sets for reuse/secondary analysis. In this paper, we outline our approach to combining multiple qualitative data sets and explain why working with a cor-pus of ‘big qual’ data is a worthwhile endeavour. We present a new approach that itera-tively combines recursive surface thematic mapping and in-depth interpretive work. Our breadth-and-depth method involves a series of steps: (1) surveying archived data sets to create a new assemblage of data; (2) recursive surface thematic mapping in dialogue with (3) preliminary ‘test pit’ analysis, remapping and repetition of preliminary analysis; and (4) in-depth analysis of the type that is familiar to most qualitative researchers. In so doing, we show how qualitative researchers can conduct ‘big qual’ analysis while retaining the dis-tinctive order of knowledge about social processes that is the hallmark of rigorous qualita-tive research, with its integrity of attention to nuanced context and detail.

    Research areas

  • archived data, big data, big qual, breadth-and-depth method, qualitative analysis, secondary analysis

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