In a joint effort the London School of Economics (LSE) and UK newspaper The Guardian started a considerable series of interviews with rioters on the one hand and policemen on the other. The Ministry of Justice gave Reading the Riots even access to prisons, enabling interviews with about 13 people convicted for their involvement in the riots.
A specially selected team of researchers, people with interviewing skills and good links to the riot-affected communities performed the interviews. The research comprised also a separate analysis, by academics at Manchester University, of a database of more than 2.5m riot-related tweets.
Next the 1.3 million words in transcripts were analysed by a team of five research analysts recruited by the LSE The process began with an analyst reading a transcript to get an overview of its contents. After several readings, each transcript was then coded so that particular themes could be identified and evidenced.
As a list of thematic labels was produced, the pieces of the puzzle came together. One important finding was that frustration with the way the police engages with communities, is an important cause of the riots in every major UK city that ‘exploded’.
The Reading the Riots-project was inspired by a study of the Detroit riots in 1967 involving a collaboration between the Detroit Free Press newspaper and the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research. The staff of the Detroit Free Press even won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the riot.
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