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FSD Bulletin is the electronic newsletter of the Finnish Social Science Data Archive. The Bulletin provides information and news related to the data archive and social science research.
Finnish Social Science Data Archive
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Recover Qualitative Research Material
Masses of qualitative research material are being collected in social sciences and humanities in Finland but only a fraction of them are archived. Some of the material ends up in a tradition archive or, in some rare cases, in the department's or research unit's own archive. However, qualitative material could be used for teaching and further research even after the original research project has ended. In a few years, the collected material may turn out to be an important source for studying everyday life at that time.
The Finnish Social Science Data Archive has been archiving qualitative research material since 2003. For the time being, only electronic, text-based qualitative material is archived - the FSD does not have any audio-visual material. In these five years, we have not been able to collect much qualitative data. The reason for this lies in our limited resources, in current research practices, and even in the current research culture.
Depositing qualitative material in an archive is considered to be more troublesome than depositing quantitative material. Researchers seem to view the qualitative material they have collected as their own children. However, most researchers entrust their children to day care centres without any problems; research material is not as easily given to others to take care of, although the archive does not collect any day care fees in exchange for its services.
At present, transforming qualitative material to an archivable form often requires a lot of resources from the data archive - or from the researcher. For example, the data archive may anonymise the material and ask all research participants for permission to archive it.
Many problems could be avoided if researchers considered the full life cycle of the research at the planning stage. To facilitate the situation, the data archive has started to produce instructions to researchers and students on topics such as research ethics, designing the data collection, and informing participants. Next year a guide on processing, documenting and archiving research material will be freely available on the web. The guide will target the collectors of both qualitative and quantitative material.
Despite the problems in archiving qualitative material, the FSD is one of the pioneers in the world. Only Qualidata in the UK started archiving qualitative research material in electronic format prior to the FSD.
This issue of the FSD Bulletin offers a glance at archiving and reusing qualitative material. I wish all the readers a rewarding and insightful reading experience!