TimescapesTimescapes is the first major qualitative longitudinal study to be funded in the UK. It explores how personal relationships and identities unfold through the lifecourse and will shed light on what these processes mean for individual life chances and wellbeing. The data from the study is being gathered together to create the Timescapes Archive, a major resource for data sharing and re-use.

About Timescapes

Timescapes is based at and led by the School of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Leeds, together with colleagues from London South Bank University, the Open University and the universities of Cardiff and Edinburgh. The study is guided by an interdisciplinary strategy group and an international network of expert researchers, archivists and policy makers. The ESRC-funded Timescapes began in February 2007 and will run until January 2012, with an initial budget of £4.5 million.

Timescapes is based on seven empirical projects that span the life course. The projects focus on:

  • siblings and friendships in childhood
  • the unfolding lives of teenagers
  • motherhood across the generations
  • men as fathers
  • work-life balance in families with young children
  • grandparenthood and social exclusion
  • the lives of the oldest generation.

Collectively, these core projects follow the lives of up to 400 people. The study uses a range of methods (in-depth interviews, ethnographies, life histories and case studies) to explore human agency and subjective understandings of life course processes and causality. Through these methods, Timescapes aims to capture the interior logic of people's lives as they unfold. The samples are from all 'walks of life' and live in highly varied communities across the UK.

The rich data gathered in the core projects is being brought together to form the Timescapes Archive (registration), a multi-media digital resource for data sharing and use by academics, policy makers and other research users.

Key features

  • Timescapes - the complex flows of time - is an important conceptual theme in this research. The study explores the biographical, historical and generational unfolding of lives, how individuals perceive past, present and future, and how they construct and overwrite their biographies, both personally and collectively, in relation to wider historical processes.
  • Timescapes represents a major scaling up of qualitative longitudinal research in terms of the temporal reach of the study, the breadth and variation of the sample populations and the potential for enhanced data linking and analysis. It is documenting the ethics and practicalities of intensively tracking samples through time and of archiving qualitative longitudinal data as part of a 'live' study.
  • Timescapes is unique in bringing intensive temporal research and archiving together in an integrated study. The study is generating high quality life course data for archiving, sharing and re-use and, alongside primary analysis and interpretation, the team is engaged in enhanced (secondary) analysis of the composite dataset. The archived data is an important output in its own right, with extra care given to its generation and preparation for re-use. A dedicated archiving project is being carried out to develop and showcase good practice.
  • Timescapes aims to build a community of users for the archive through user consultations, mobile training workshops and an affiliation scheme for data sharing and enhanced analysis. Affiliated projects and studentships may contribute new data to the archive as well as drawing on existing data to enrich analyses and interpretations. Collaborations are being developed with comparable resources such as Mass Observation and BBC Memoryshare in the UK and European resources such as the Bremen Life course Archive in Germany.
  • Timescapes aims to become an integral part of longitudinal studies in the UK, and to develop expertise in the linking of longitudinal data across comparable datasets. The study is developing collaborative links with two large scale studies (Understanding Society and the National Child Development Study) and will be conducting a dedicated secondary analysis project to pioneer 'mixed' longitudinal analysis.

How to access this resource

Details of the study are available on the Timescapes website.

Download the Timescapes information sheet (PDF, 207Kb) 

Further information

  • Timescapes: An ESRC Qualitative Longitudinal Study
    Families, Life course and Generations (FLaG) Research Centre, School of Sociology and Social Policy, University of Leeds, Leeds, LS2 9JT
    Email: b.neale@leeds.ac.uk
    Telephone: +44 (0) 113 343 8489
  • ESRC resources team
    Email: esrcresources@esrc.ac.uk
    Telephone: 01793 413199