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Collaborating on a Mass Observation Project Directive

commission quotesA unique Project

Researchers of all kinds are invited to collaborate with the Mass Observation Project. This involves joining a research relationship which has been built up over 30 years between the Archive and its volunteer writers.

The Panel of Observers write with great candour and trust and are committed to the whole idea of the Mass Observation Project which is dedicated to the collection of views and experiences of 'everyday’ people across the UK.

You can find out more about re-using data already collected as part of the Mass Observation Project here or view past Mass Observation Project Directives here

Qualitative data: rich in life writing

The responses the Project receives are particularly rich, detailed and personal, often providing insights which are difficult to obtain using other methods of research. Researchers need to be aware that the Project is therefore much more than a simple questionnaire mail-out or data collection service.

It is not a survey in the traditional sense and the Panel does not constitute a representative sample of the population. There is no guarantee that contributions from specific kinds of people will be represented in the material. This has implications for the methodological approach to analysis and interpretation which the researcher chooses and the Archive can advise if required.

Working with the Mass Observation Project

Ideally discussions about the use of Mass Observation and the design of a commissioned directive will take place in the early stages of planning an overall research project and advice can be offered during the process of applying for funding.

Directives are normally sent out three times a year and a collaboratively produced Directive would usually be expected to fit in with this time-table. The design of the actual Directive text is a joint process between the researcher and the Archive and usually takes place in the two or three weeks running up to the Directive mail out. Researchers will receive a final version of their text integrated into the whole Directive. We normally include a note about the commissioning researcher and their interest in the theme in the covering letter which accompanies the directive.

We encourage researchers to not only look at earlier Directives but also at samples of replies as this will help in the design of the questions. We will refer researchers to previous published work which has made use of Mass Observation Directives replies and ask Directive commissioners to sign a contact. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to see a copy of this contract. 

Charges for Collaborating

As a registered charity we charge a fee for collaborating on a Directive, which supports our project costs. Please see here for further information.

Mail out of the Directive

Directive replies are usually received during the three month period after the directive has been sent out. Access is not granted until the whole batch of material is fully processed. It has to be sorted, checked and boxed in order to comply with our standards of security and privacy. Researchers should plan to start their research on the replies about three months after the directive mail out. However, researchers need to be aware that some correspondents send in replies after the three month period and the collection may continue to grow.


Mailing out of Directive  Material ready for use 
March/April (Spring)  June/July
June/July (Summer)  September/October
November/December (Autumn/Winter)  February/March


Terms of collaboration

download icon Download load a copy of our terms of collaboration. 


Contact us

Please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have any enquires about the Mass Observation Project, partnerships, or collaborations.