Highlighted Selections from:

Guidelines for Data Access and Research Transparency for Qualitative Research in Political Science


American Political Science Association. “Guidelines for Data Access and Research Transparency for Qualitative Research in Political Science.” (2013): 1–13. Draft from August 2013. Print.

p.1: The new standards require researchers making evidence-based knowledge claims in their published work to provide data access, and engage in production transparency and analytic transparency.

  • Data access requires authors to reference the data on which their descriptive and causal inferences and interpretations are based and, if they generated or collected those data, to make them available or explain why they cannot.
  • Production transparency requires authors who collected and/or generated the data serving as evidence for their claims to explain the genesis of those data. Production transparency is necessary for other scholars to understand and interpret the data which authors have made available.
  • Analytic transparency requires that authors demonstrate how they used cited data to arrive at evidence-based claims.

-- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.3: To date, this fundamental attribute of community-based knowledge generation has played out in political science primarily in the realm of replicating quantitative research. In contrast to the situation in legal academia, historical studies, classical philology and some other disciplines, in qualitative political science transparency norms have been weak or non-existent. To be sure, citations and references in qualitative research appear to assure openness. Nevertheless, imprecision in citation, the high transaction costs of actually locating cited evidence, and the opacity of links between data and conclusions, combine to make the critical evaluation of descriptive and causal inferences or cumulative deepening of data analysis a rare event. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.4: These epistemological considerations are reinforced by the especially acute ethical and legal imperatives, and the sociological framing of transparency, in qualitative research. The two most important ethical and legal imperatives with which transparency can be in tension in qualitative research are human subject and copyright concerns. Sometimes data are collected in circumstances that require discretion to protect the rights and welfare of subjects. This will, quite properly, limit transparency. Moreover, many sources are not, in their entirety, in the public domain, and there are limitations on how they can be shared. As noted below, scholars should only make qualitative data (and information about the decisions and processes that produced them) available in ways which conform to these social and legal imperatives. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.9: Achieving analytic transparency requires scholars to describe relevant aspects of the overall research process, detail the micro-connections between their data and claims (i.e., show how the specific evidence they cite supports those claims), and discuss how evidence was aggregated to support claims.

The APSA standard for analytic transparency prescribes no epistemology or methodology; it simply requires that authors be clear about the analytic processes they followed to derive claims from their data, and demonstrate how they followed the general rules that attend the interpretive or inferential approach they are using. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014