Analyzing qualitative data is not an easy task. Instead of punching script into a statistical programming and receiving results, you become the computer who needs to analyze the data. For this reason alone, the analysis of qualitative data is difficult as different people will have vastly different interpretations of data.
This post will look at the following
- The basic characteristics of qualitative data analysis
- Exploring and coding data
Qualitative data analysis has the following traits
- Inductive form
- Analyzing data while still collecting data
Qualitative analysis is inductive by nature. This indicates that a researcher goes from specific examples to the generation of broad concepts or themes. In many ways, the researcher is trying to organize and summarize what they found in their research coherently in nice neat categories and themes.
Qualitative analysis also involves analyzing while still collecting data.You begin to process the data while still accumulating data. This is an iterative process that involves moving back and forth between analysis and collection of data. This is strong contrast to quantitative research which is usually linear in nature.
Lastly, qualitative analysis is highly subjective. Everyone who views the data will have a different perspective on the results of a study. This means that people will all see different ideas and concepts that are important in qualitative research.
Exploring and Coding
Coding data in qualitative research can be done with text, images, and or observations. In coding, a researcher determines which information to share through the development of segments, codes, categories, themes. Below is the process for developing codes and categories
1. Read the text
Reading the text means to get familiar with it and now what is discussed.
2. Pick segments of quotes to include in the article
After reading the text, you begin to pick quotes from the interview that will be used for further inductive processing
3, Develop codes from segments
After picking many different segments, you need to organize them into codes. All segments in one code have something in common that unites them as a code.
4. Develop categories from codes
The next level of abstract is developing categories from codes. The same process in step 3 is performed here.
5. Develop themes from categories
This final step involves further summarizing of the results of the categories development into themes. The process is the same as steps 3 and 4.
Please keep in mind that as you move from step 1 to 5 the number of concepts decreases. For example, you may start with 50 segments that are reduce to 10 codes then reduce to 5 categories and finally 3 themes.
Qualitative data analysis is not agreed upon. There are many different ways to approach this. In general, the best approach possible is one that is consistent in terms of its treat of the data. The example provided here is just one approach to organizing data in qualitative research.