Conversations on the Margins: Using Data Entry to Explore the Qualitative Potential of Survey Marginalia

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This paper uses the Morris Justice Project, a participatory action research (PAR) study conducted in the South Bronx, to reflect on a collaborative, community-based survey intended to examine residents’ experiences with and attitudes toward the New York Police Department. In particular, the seldom focused data entry phase was explored for its potential to conduct participatory analyses focused on the person rather than the variable. In the data entry phase, marginalia produced by respondents were discovered. By remaining flexible to the potential importance of this “extra” qualitative information beyond the intended structure of the survey, marginalia offered nuanced perspectives on the respondents’ answers and helped researchers to confront their own assumptions written into the survey. Ultimately, survey marginalia offered a deeper understanding of how residents experienced policing in the South Bronx.

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