THE BRITISH LIBRARY

UK Web Archive blog

23 June 2014

Researcher in focus: Paul Thomas - UK and Canadian Parliamentary Archives

At the UK Web Archive, we’re always delighted to learn about specific uses that researchers have been able to make of our data. One such case is from the work of Paul Thomas, a doctoral student in political science at the University of Toronto.

Paul writes:

‘The UK Web Archive has been a huge asset to my dissertation. My research examines how backbench parliamentarians in Canada, the UK and Scotland are increasingly cooperating across party lines through a series of informal organizations known as All-Party Groups (APGs). For the UK, the most important source for my research is the registry of APGs that is regularly produced by the House of Commons. The document, which is published in both web and PDF formats, provides details on the more than 500 groups that are in operation, including which MPs and Peers are involved, and what funding groups have received from outside bodies like lobbyists or charities.

‘A key part of the study involved using the registries to construct a dataset that tracked membership patterns across the various groups, and how they changed over time. Unfortunately, each time a new version of the registry is produced, the previous web copy is taken down.’

While the Parliamentary Archives keep old copies of the registry on file, they only do so in PDF – a format that is not so conducive to the extraction of information into a dataset. Paul was able to find and use successive versions from the UK Web Archive going back to 2006, including a number that were missing from the Internet Archive. Paul was also able to obtain pre-2006 versions from the Internet Archive. ‘Without the UK Web Archive, I would have first needed to purchase the past registries in PDF from the Parliamentary Archives and then painstakingly copy the details on each group into a dataset.’ Overall, Paul writes, ‘the UK Web Archive saved me an enormous amount of time in compiling my data'.

Paul recently gave a paper drawing on this data at the Annual Conference of the Canadian Political Science Association:
http://pauledwinjames.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/paul-thomas-cpsa2014v2.pdf

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