Capturing context for qualitative data2 May 2006South Bank University, London

On 3 May 2006 ESDS Qualidata held a workshop as part of the QUADS Demonstrator scheme to address the issue of defining and capturing data context. Defining how to provide context for raw data to make it more 'usable' is a complex and sometimes contentious topic that been the focus of some heated debates within the qualitative data community. ESDS Qualidata has spent 10 years working in the area of sharing qualitative data, and has done much to establish informal ways of documenting raw data, such as interview texts and field notes. In addition to written materials arising out of the project, interviews with depositors have proved to be one of the most effective ways of capturing context. Contextual needs for 'raw data' depend on the particular intended usage: description; comparative research, restudy or follow-up study; augmenting new data collection; re-analysis or secondary analysis; verification; research design and methodological advancement; or teaching and learning. 

Situating data in its context requires both micro and macro level features to be considered including: how the research question was framed; the research application process; project progress; fieldwork situations; analyses, processes and output/publication activities. For example, when undertaking a replication or restudy, detailed information on sampling procedures, fieldwork approaches and question guides is essential. 

The day fostered an opportunity for QUADS projects to share experiences from work in progress. The workshop gave some useful input into consensus on mandatory elements for providing necessary context.