In a previous post, we looked at the first three steps of the process of qualitative research. The steps of this process are below as a review.
- Explore a problem to understand the phenomenon
- Minor literature review
- State purpose and research questions in a general way
- Collect data normally from a small sample relying on words instead of numbers
- Analyze the data using text analysis to find themes and descriptions
- Write up
In this post, we will look at the last three steps of the qualitative research process.
Data collection allows a researcher to learn about the participants of a study. Usually, a protocol or a form for collecting data is created. The protocol can be a list of questions to ask during an interview or a place to record behavior that the researcher observes during the course of data collection. For example, if we are looking at the experience of African students in Thai government schools, we may use an interview protocol, or a list of questions, when collecting data from the students.
The most common forms of data collection include interviews, observation, and document analysis. Interviews is a question and answer session with another individual(s). Observation is the act of watching others. Lastly, document analysis is evaluating written or other objects in the sure for useful information.
Whatever is collected, whether text from interviews, imagines, or other sources becomes a database. Words become a text database. Imagines become an image database. These databases of information are used for the data analysis.
Data is analyzed in qualitative research in a number of ways. Text segments are the dividing of sentences from the text database into groups. These various groups are used to explain the central phenomenon of the study.
Themes and categories is another analysis technique. In this approach, the researcher looks for commonalities among the data and attempts to organize these themes in order to explain the central phenomenon. For example, if during the course of the interviews with the African students in Thai schools the student mention rejection and humiliation consistently in several interviews, this could be a theme or category of information about the central phenomenon of the experience of these students in Thai schools.
The format for qualitative research is similar to quantitative. There is a problem, purpose, literature review, methodology, results, and conclusion. However, this format is much looser in qualitative research and is not strictly followed. Some qualitative studies begin with a long narrative that serves as providing the background of a study as an example.
Qualitative studies have an extensive write up of the data collection which shares the themes and categories as well as the relationship among them. The researcher must also share their biases, values, and assumptions in order to indicate why results were interpreted a certain way. For example, as an African American, I am familiar with the discrimination of Africans in Thailand from my own experience. Therefore, if I were to interview African students about their experience in Thai schools, there would be a temptation to attempt to confirm my own experience as I speak to the students. By sharing this in the write up it informs readers of my own biases about living in Thailand.
Qualitative research is about explaining a central phenomenon. Data collection is for the purpose of gathering information about the topic of the study. The analysis is for the purpose of explaining the results. Lastly, the write up is about conveying the results in a way that is clear for the public.