Qual Quant (2013) 47:2177–2190
The absent, the hidden and the obscured: reﬂections on
“dark matter” in qualitative research
Naomi Weiner-Levy · Ariela Popper-Giveon
Published online: 13 December 2011
© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011
Abstract Qualitative research literature generally ignores the voids that are created and the
materials that are suppressed during data analysis and the writing phase. Qualitative studies
are usually based on observations and interviews that hold an immense amount of data. These
are transformed to a few condensed papers at the ﬁnal stage. During this process, many of
the ﬁndings and insights are omitted. This study focuses on the important but neglected topic
of data omitted from ﬁnal research reports by examining two speciﬁc aspects of research:
(1) reﬂexivity, its pretensions notwithstanding, that may often suppress and conceal more
than it presents and reveals and (2) relevant ﬁndings omitted from ﬁnal reports despite their
marked effect on research. We maintain that these suppressed and obscured materials, the
“dark matter” of qualitative research, have a marked effect on the research and significantly
affect the ﬁndings and their structure even if they are not included in the ﬁnal report.
Keywords Qualitative research · Methodology · Analysis · Reﬂexivity
The sense of confusion and helplessness familiar to many researchers as they plunge into
oceans of qualitative data has merited some attention in professional literature. Qualitative
research that usually begins modestly may lead up to a “Big Bang” that spreads and grows.
Instead of pulling towards the centre, the research and its data start to collapse towards the
margins, threatening the despondent researcher with disintegration engendered by an over-
abundance of data. Researchers who accumulate tremendous masses of ﬁeld work data, not
only have to decide how to analyse and present the data, but before doing so, they have to
select which material is suitable for presentation in the ﬁnal research report and which is not.
In this paper we choose to initiate open academic discussion of the issue of relevant material
not included in research reports—the missing dark matter.
N. Weiner-Levy (
) · A. Popper-Giveon
David Yellin Academic College Jerusalem, Jerusalem, Israel
The Open University, Raanana, Israel