Approaches to reusing qualitative data

Approaches to reusing qualitative data

In distinguishing various approaches to reuse, two issues are central:

  • Who is doing the reuse, specifically, are any of the primary researchers involved in the reuse project?
  • What are the purposes of the reuse, namely, are the new questions similar to, or very different from the questions of the original researchers?

Below we describe the main ways data can be reused:


Previous research can be used to describe the attributes, attitudes and behaviour of individuals, societies, groups or organisations at the time of the original project.

Comparative research

Comparative research provides comparison over time or between social groups or regions etc.


Reanalysis asks new questions of the data and makes different interpretations from the original researcher. It approaches the data in ways that were not originally addressed, such as using data for investigating different themes or topics of study. The more in-depth the material, and the more contextualised the raw data, the more possible this becomes. This does not involve attempts to undermine researcher’s previous analysis.

Research design and methodological advancement

Research design and methodological advancement involves designing a new study or developing a methodology or research tool by studying sampling methods, data collection and fieldwork strategies and topic guides. Although researchers often publish a section on methods used, researchers’ own fieldwork diaries or analytic notes can offer much insight into the history and development of the research.

Learning and teaching

Both older classic studies and more contemporary research can provide rich case material for learning and teaching in both research methods and substantive areas across a range of social science disciplines.