Paradata is generally seen as the by-products of social research, usually referring to survey research. It relates to two types of paradata:
Paradata can provide a wealth of insights into both the topic of the survey and the methods used to conduct it. Its examination can help improve the quality of data collection.
‘Poverty in the UK: advancing paradata analysis and open access’ project was an ESRC-funded collaboration between the National Centre for Research Methods and the Poverty and Social Exclusion research team. It focussed on the 1968-69 Poverty in the United Kingdom (PinUK) study led by Peter Townsend with the Poverty and Social Exclusion: UK 2012 study (PSE UK) used for comparative purposes. The project had two main aims:
For the comparative analysis, thematic and narrative analyses of marginalia in selected PinUK survey booklets were compared with the thematic analysis of 25 transcribed audio-recorded PSE UK survey interviews and narrative analysis of one transcribed audio-recorded PSE UK survey interview. The main stage of the project ran from April 2013 to July 2014.
The project also tracked down and interviewed a number of people involved in the orginal research including some of the field workers for the 1968/69 survey and members of the research team. The full list of interviewees can be downloaded here. For further details go to The video interviews - an overview. The video interviews are in the process of being uploaded on to the website and will be accessible through the left hand menu. They provide unique insights into the process of conducting the survey and its impact.
In addition, the project digitised a large number of documents relating to the 1968/69 survey for open access use. These include the pdfs of the orginal survey questionnaires which can be found The 1968/69 survey questionnaires and notes and documents relating to the 1968/69 survey and to Townsend's 1979 book, Poverty in the UK, which can be found in Original notes and documents from the Poverty in the UK study.
The project’s final report built on the analyses of the PinUK and PSE UK by-products, interviews and contextual materials to develop an account of the technological, social and professional role changes that have occurred over the past 45 years and discusses how the conditions of production have an impact on the data produced. The report finds that a key skill for field interviewers is the ability to be flexible in interviews, in the face of organisational concerns about standardisation. However, overall, there is now less possibility for spontaneous and flexible communication, and less opportunity to see the research as collaborative work. The report concludes that, overall, the substantive data is as much a ‘by’-product of the survey interview process as the conventional view that paradata is a by-product of substantive data gathering.
The analysis of the marginal notes on the survey questionnaires identified an emergent typology of the kinds of paradata being used by the interviewers. For more details about this emergent typology, read:
The Townsend survey marginal notes help to illuminate substantive issues around at the time of the survey and provide notes on the social context as well as raising methodological issues as to the impact of the interviewer on the data collected. For examples of the range of marginal notes made on the Townsend questionnaires, go to Marginal notes on the questionnaires. To explore all the marginal notes in the questionnaires go to The 1968/69 survey questionnaires.
The ‘Poverty in the UK: advancing paradata analysis and open access’ research project was a collaboration between the University of Southampton’s National Centre for Research Methods (NCRM), the University of Bristol’s Townsend Centre for International Poverty Research and the NCRM’s research node on Narratives of Varied Everyday Lives and Linked Approaches (Novella) at the Institute of Education, University College London. The research team members were:
NCRM Hub, University of Southampton: Rosalind Edwards (PI)
NOVELLA, Institute for Education, UCL: Ann Phoenix (Co-I), Heather Elliott
Townsend Centre, University of Bristol: David Gordon (Co-I), Eldin Fahmy, Karen Bell
The open access for this project was overseen by Joanna Mack, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, Bristol University and Visiting Fellow, The Open University.
Below you can download the various reports, documents and articles related to the ‘Poverty in the UK: Advancing Paradata Analysis and Open Access’ project. These downloads also include the setup syntax file of the PinUK dataset, made available for analysis of the survey data in the ESRC archive. The downloads cover:
This page was authored by Joanna Mack, University of Bristol and The Open University.