Rigorous social science requires scholars to be transparent about how they collect and analyze research data, and to share those data when conditions allow. In qualitative and multi-method research, rich qualitative data are often analyzed and deployed individually or in small groups – and data, analysis, and conclusions are densely interwoven across the span of a publication. These characteristics can complicate increasing the openness of such research.

Annotation for Transparent Inquiry (ATI) (https://qdr.syr.edu/ati) is an exciting new way to achieve transparency in qualitative and multi-method research. Developed by the Qualitative Data Repository (QDR, https://qdr.syr.edu/) and the software non-profit Hypothesis, ATI uses open web annotations to create a digital overlay on top of articles published on journal web pages. ATI annotations link “analytic notes” discussing data generation and analysis, excerpts from data sources, as well as the data sources themselves, to individual passages in published scholarship. Readers are able to view annotations immediately alongside the main article text, removing the need to jump to footnotes or separate appendices. The data sources are stored in a trusted data repository to ensure that they are findable, accessible, interoperable, reusable, and preserved for the long term, and that human participants are protected.

Earlier in 2018, QDR launched the ATI Initiative to encourage the early adoption of ATI by research communities, and to engineer requirements for technical features that support authors who use ATI. The Initiative involves a series of workshops for scholars from a range of disciplines who are using ATI to annotate journal articles in order to make them more transparent.

To offer an example of how ATI can be employed, Joseph O’Mahoney used ATI to annotate his article, “Making the Real: Rhetorical Adduction and the Bangladesh Liberation War,” recently published in International Organization. The article concerns the normative underpinnings of the UK’s position during the Bangladesh Liberation War. Using ATI enables O’Mahoney to bring the decision-making process within the British government to life, enhancing his carefully constructed empirical argument with extensive excerpts and links to digital copies of memos, telegrams, and similar materials.


View the article with annotations.

Reflecting on his experience using the technique, on Twitter, O’Mahoney comments: “… ATI makes it a better paper because you get so much more by being able to access the underlying sources, which is not otherwise possible.”

You can view the first eight articles that were annotated as part of QDR’s ATI Initiative here. Another nine articles will be available soon.

As part of the next stage of the Initiative, we are inviting faculty and advanced graduate students from disciplines that employ qualitative data and methods to submit proposals to participate in the ATI Challenge (proposal deadline May 31). If you are planning to write an article over the summer, we hope you will consider submitting a proposal!