• cancer;
  • data analysis;
  • learning disabilities;
  • participative research;
  • qualitative research;
  • user involvement


Background  People with learning disabilities have been included in research as co-researchers since the 1990s. However, there is limited literature about the processes of involving people with learning disabilities in the more intellectual and analytical stages of the research process.

Aims  To examine the potential contribution of people with learning disabilities to data analysis in qualitative research.

Methods  This article is a reflection on one research experience. The two authors include one researcher with and one without learning disabilities. They each describe their experience and understanding of user involvement in analysing the data of an ethnographic study of people with learning disabilities who had cancer. The researcher with learning disabilities was given extensive vignettes and extracts from the research field notes, and was supported to extract themes, which were cross-compared with the analysis of other members of the research team.

Results  The researcher with learning disabilities coped well with the emotive content of the data and with the additional support provided, he was able to extract themes that added validity to the overall analysis. His contribution complemented those of the other members of the research team. There were unexpected benefits, in particular, in terms of a more reciprocal and supportive relationship between the two researchers.

Conclusion  It is possible and valuable to extend involvement to data analysis, but to avoid tokenism and maintain academic rigour, there must be a clear rationale for such involvement. Extra support, time and costs must be planned for.