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Objective: Big social data (such as social media and blogs) and archived qualitative data (such as interview transcripts, field notebooks, and diaries) are similar, but their respective communities of practice are under-connected. This paper explores shared challenges in qualitative data reuse and big social research and identifies implications for data curation.

Methods: This paper uses a broad literature search and inductive coding of 300 articles relating to qualitative data reuse and big social research. The literature review produces six key challenges relating to data use and reuse that are present in both qualitative data reuse and big social research—context, data quality, data comparability, informed consent, privacy & confidentiality, and intellectual property & data ownership.

Results: This paper explores six key challenges related to data use and reuse for qualitative data and big social research and discusses their implications for data curation practices.

Conclusions: Data curators can benefit from understanding these six key challenges and examining data curation implications. Data curation implications from these challenges include strategies for: providing clear documentation; linking and combining datasets; supporting trustworthy repositories; using and advocating for metadata standards; discussing alternative consent strategies with researchers and IRBs; understanding and supporting deidentification challenges; supporting restricted access for data; creating data use agreements; supporting rights management and data licensing; developing and supporting alternative archiving strategies. Considering these data curation implications will help data curators support sounder practices for both qualitative data reuse and big social research.


data curation, qualitative data reuse, big social research


Many thanks to Vivien Petras at Humboldt University of Berlin for her guidance and support on this paper. Disclosures: The content of this article is based upon a panel presentation at RDAP Summit 2021 titled “Supporting Responsible Research with Big Social Data by Connecting Communities of Practice.” available at https://osf.io/e4u7v.

Corresponding Author

Sara Mannheimer, Montana State University, Montana State University Library, P.O. Box 173320, Bozeman, MT 59715 USA; sara.mannheimer@montana.edu

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Copyright © 2021 Mannheimer. This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.