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Malin Åkerström

Malin Åkerström

Professor emerita

Malin Åkerström

Reanalysis of Earlier Collected Material


  • Malin Åkerström
  • Katarina Jacobsson
  • David Wästerfors


  • Clive Seale
  • Giampietro Gobo
  • Jaber F Gubrium
  • David Silverman

Summary, in English

Data from finished projects may stay in a researcher’s mind for many reasons: a fascination for a field, members’ charm, odd circumstances in the collecting process, analytical frustration etc. Yet the possibility of

bringing back one’s attention to these data in order to understand them in new conceptual contexts is rarely as valued as the opposite: a quest for new data to be put in one’s familiar conceptual contexts.

In this article we discuss the methodological aspects of “recycling” one’s own data, pointing out obstacles and rewards as well as the linkages between the process of reinterpretation and researchers’ biographies. Against

worries about data getting “old,” we argue that analytical creativity is not necessarily tied to a specific research project and its limited time span. If cultivating a methodological open-mindedness and an interest in the

phenomena, data can be used again and again by looking at them through different analytical lenses. In that sense, data never get old.

Two empirical illustrations are used. One concerns a woman in prison, interviewed almost twenty years ago in a study on violence and threats in prison. An original naturalistic approach, employed to identify common

traits in the local prison culture, made this particular interview difficult to place. The woman’s storytelling did not fit into the overall picture. She was mostly concerned with life ouside prison, wheras the other interviewees kindly kept themselves to researcher's choosen topic. Furthermore, she presented herself in a way more aking to some of the male prisoners, than did the other women. Subsequently, as qualitative research gained insights in narrative perspectives, tools appeared that made it possible to interpret what originally seemed puzzling.

The other illustration relates to ethnographic data from a study of parents and professionals involved in education and care of deaf children. Whereas an original interactionist approach seemed sufficient to discern and interpret all patterns and variations, a later analysis of practically the same material, now in accordance with Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogical view of language, shed a new light on the field.

Thus, the idea of recycling data involves potentials not only to revisit and ruminate old riddles but also to generate new riddles in data once considered to be entirely squeezed. As Georg Simmel wrote, animating the quality he saw in empirical materials: “there’s more within me.”


  • Sociology
  • School of Social Work

Publishing year







Qualitative research practice

Document type

Book chapter


SAGE Publications


  • Sociology


  • reinterpretations
  • battered women
  • deaf
  • analytical creativity sociology sociologi
  • ethnography
  • method



Research group

  • Kriminal- och socialvetenskapligt nätverk


  • ISBN: 0-7619-4776-0