Pioneers of Qualitative Social Research expanded into a rich resource and interface
Article dated: 20 March 2012
Researchers who use qualitative data now have an expanded library of material to consult, one that contains some of the most classic sociological studies carried out in the UK over the last half century.
The story of the Pioneers project started in 1994 when Qualidata (now part of ESDS), set about rescuing and archiving data from classic examples of social research carried out by British researchers since the 1940s.
Before then, researchers' data – such as interviews or fieldwork diaries – generally languished forgotten in home offices or office cupboards, largely inaccessible to other researchers and often in danger of destruction. Once rescued, Qualidata staff archived them digitally and made them
available through ESDS.
These collections were later enriched with life story interviews with some of the most significant researchers who contributed data to the collection – people like Dennis Marsden (Education and the Working Class), Peter Townsend (The Last Refuge) and David Lockwood (Affluent Worker).
Most of these life stories were conducted by Paul Thompson, himself a pioneer of social science research, who led the oral history movement in the UK and Europe.
"The pioneers tell us of the influences in their early lives, such as observing the subtleties of social class within their own families, of how their later ideas developed, of their choices and experience of fieldwork
methods, the contrasts between working in their own communities and with far distant and previously unknown cultures, and their reflections on how they interpreted the data they collected," says Thompson. "Through these vivid quotes, the website offers inspiring models to young researchers and a compelling teaching resource for sociology and anthropology."
Now the Pioneers collection has been enriched once again, reorganised and made available in a user-friendly interface that allows users to search, filter and browse for data collections, life stories and other related material. For example, those interested in the lifework of one particular
researcher can find a description of their legacy, a short biography, links to their data collections, and both audio and transcribed excerpts from their life story interviews. The full interviews are being released on a
phased basis, with five now available to download in PDF format.