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Journal article Open Access

A practical introduction to annotating for transparent inquiry in qualitative research

O'Mahoney, Joseph

When we do historical research, or political science research using primary source historical evidence, a major barrier to transparency is the fact that the archival documents used are inaccessible. Whereas citations to journal articles and, increasingly, books and some other data sources, can usually allow a reader to check evidence within minutes, citations to archival documents can require months or years to verify, if it is even ever possible. This is a serious problem for qualitative and multi-method research in my field, international relations and the study of foreign policy decision-making, which often relies heavily on archival documentary evidence (Moravcsik 2014). Elman, Kapiszewski, and Lupia (2018) claim that scholars “may be unable to imagine a practical way to share” the archival documents they use in their analyses (41). In this symposium contribution, I describe and analyze such a method, that is, annotating a journal article using Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI). This new approach to transparency allowed me to create a digital overlay on top of my published article comprising “annotations.” Through those annotations, I could provide instant access to annotated copies of the archival documents my research is based on, and expanded commentary on citations to those archival documents. The annotations thus increase both data access transparency and analytic transparency (see Elman, Kapiszewski, and Lupia 2018, 34 for a discussion of the latter). I also discuss some thoughts on the benefits and costs of using ATI for both the author and the reader, inspired by my experience annotating.

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