Data Reuse and Sensemaking among Novice Social Scientists

by: Ixchel M. Faniel, Adam Kriesberg, and Elizabeth Yakel

We know little about the data reuse practices of novice data users. Yet large scale data reuse over the long term depends in part on uptake from early career researchers. This paper examines 22 novice social science researchers and how they make sense of social science data. Novices are particularly interested in understanding how data: 1) are transformed from qualitative to quantitative data, 2) capture concepts not well-established in the literature, and 3) can be matched and merged across multiple datasets. We discuss how novice data users make sense of data in these three circumstances. We find that novices seek to understand the data producer’s rationale for methodological procedures and measurement choices, which is broadly similar to researchers in other scientific communities. However we also find that they not only reflect on whether they can trust the data producers’ decisions, but also seek guidance from members of their disciplinary community. Specifically, novice social science researchers are heavily influenced by more experienced social science researchers when it comes to discovering, evaluating, and justifying their reuse of other’s data.

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Suggested Citation:

Faniel, Ixchel M., Adam Kriesberg, and Elizabeth Yakel. 2012. "Data Reuse and Sensemaking among Novice Social Scientists." ASIS&T 2012 Annual Meeting Proceedings, 1-10. Baltimore, Maryland, USA. Preprint available online at