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How to do qualitative analysis: In theory and practice

How to do qualitative analysis: In theory and practice

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These slides are from a recent workshop for Honours students and researchers at UTS's School of Communication. Not pictured are the examples from my own research that I used to illustrate concepts. Hopefully I will be able to make a prettier version soon.

These slides are from a recent workshop for Honours students and researchers at UTS's School of Communication. Not pictured are the examples from my own research that I used to illustrate concepts. Hopefully I will be able to make a prettier version soon.

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How to do qualitative analysis: In theory and practice

  1. 1. How to do qualitative analysis In theory and practice Dr Heather Ford @hfordsa 1
  2. 2. Steps that I take early in the research process 1. Decide which types of coding are relevant 2. Start coding! 3. Create a start list of codes 4. Generate categories (pattern codes) 5. Test these categories against new data (start with contrasting data early on!) 6. Write about categories/pattern codes in a memo to explain their significance 2
  3. 3. Workshop 1: coding 3
  4. 4. What is a code? ‘A code in qualitative inquiry is most often a word or short phrase that symbolically assigns a summative, salient, essence- capturing, and/or evocative attribute for a portion of language-based or visual data’ (Saldaña, 2013) 4
  5. 5. What is a code? ‘(Q)ualitative codes are essence-capturing and essential elements of the research story, that, when clustered together according to similarity and regularity (a pattern), they actively facilitate the development of categories and thus analysis of their connections.’ (Saldaña, 2013: 8) 5
  6. 6. What is a code? ‘A word or a phrase does not “contain” its meaning as a bucket “contains” water, but has the meaning it does by being a choice made about its significance in a given context.’ (Blissa, Mark, and Ogborn, 1983) 6
  7. 7. What is a code? 7 coding is not just labeling, it is linking (Saldaña, 2013: 8) - from the data to the idea and back to other data
  8. 8. A few coding types 1. descriptive coding: summarizes the primary topic of the excerpt 2. process coding: a word or phrase that captures action 3. in vivo coding: using the participants’ own language 4. pattern coding: coding for patterns in the data 5. simultaneous coding: applying multiple codes to the same text 8
  9. 9. Descriptive vs In Vivo coding 9
  10. 10. What gets coded? Social life happens at four coordinates,“the intersection of one or more actors (participants) engaging in one or more activities (behaviors) at a particular time in a specific place” Lofland, Snow, Anderson, & Lofland (2006) in Saldaña 10
  11. 11. Units of social organisation 1. cultural practices (daily routines, occupational tasks); 2. episodes (unanticipated or irregular activities such as divorce, championship games, natural disasters); 3. encounters (a temporary interaction between two or more individuals such as sales transactions, panhandling); 4. roles (student, mother, customer) & social types (bully, geek); 5. social & personal relationships (husband & wife, party-goers); 6. groups & cliques (gangs, congregations, families, jocks) 7. organizations (schools, fast-food restaurants, prisons); 8. settlements and habitats (villages, neighborhoods, etc.); 9. subcultures and lifestyles (the homeless, skinheads) Lofland, Snow, Anderson, & Lofland (2006) in Saldaña 11
  12. 12. In combination with 1. cognitive aspects or meanings (e.g., ideologies, rules, self- concepts, identities); 2. emotional aspects or feelings (e.g., sympathy in health care, road rage,workplace satisfaction); 3. hierarchical aspects or inequalities (e.g., racial inequality, battered women, high school cliques) Lofland, Snow, Anderson, & Lofland (2006) in Saldaña 12
  13. 13. Questions to ask yourself as you code • What are people doing? What are they trying to accomplish? • How, exactly, do they do this? • What specific means &/or strategies do they use? • How do members talk about, characterize, and understand what is going on? • What assumptions are they making? • What do I see going on here? • What did I learn from these notes? • Why did I include them? (Auerbach and Silverstein, 2003: 44) • What surprised me? (to track your assumptions) • What intrigued me? (to track your positionality) • What disturbed me? (to track the tensions within your value, attitude and beliefs (Sunstein and Chiseri-Strater, 2007: 106) 13
  14. 14. How many codes? it depends... pro line by line: Charmaz (2008) says it reduces chance of bias Stern (2007) looks for the ‘cream on the top’ of the data Friese (2012) recommends 120-300 codes total; others like Litchtman (2010) suggests 20-100; Crewell (2013) starts with 5-6 provisional codes 14
  15. 15. Advice from Saldaña • Be organized • Exercise perseverance • Learn to deal with ambiguity • Exercise flexibility • Be creative • Be ‘rigorously ethical’ • Develop an extensive vocabulary 15
  16. 16. Next steps e.g. decide what types of codes to use, print out my data and start figuring out how to code it
  17. 17. Workshop 2: Memoing 17
  18. 18. When you get new data through interviews, field visits, participant observation etc write up your observations in memos, using contact sheets and/or interim case analysis forms 18
  19. 19. What is a memo? ‘(A memo is) the theorizing write-up of ideas about codes and their relationships as they strike the analyst while coding... it can be a sentence, a paragraph or a few pages... it exhausts the analyst’s momentary ideation based on data with perhaps a little conceptual elaboration’ (Glaser, 1978: 83) 19
  20. 20. What can memos do? • pulling together incidents that appear to have commonalities what is intensely puzzling or surprising about a case • alternative hypotheses in response to someone else’s memo (or analysis) • proposals for a specific new pattern code • integrating a set of marginal or reflective remarks already made on field notes • when the analyst does not have a clear concept in mind but is struggling to clarify one • around a general theme or metaphor that pulls together discrete observations Miles and Huberman, 1994: 73) 20
  21. 21. Contact sheet Should take less than an hour to fill out Contains: date of contact, key concepts, linked to specific places in field notes Essential for revising your initial framework (Miles and Huberman, 1994: 51) 21
  22. 22. Answers questions like: What people, events, or situations were involved? (using numbers or other identifiers to anonymize if necessary) What were the main themes or issues in the contact? Which research questions and which variables in the initial framework did the contact bear on most centrally? What new hypotheses, speculations, or hunches about the field situations were suggested by the contact? Where should the field-worker place most energy during the next contact, and what kinds of information should be sought? (Miles and Huberman, 1994: 51) Contact sheet
  23. 23. Interim case analysis forms • Main themes, impressions, summary statements • about what is going on in the site • Explanations, speculations, hypotheses about what is going on in the site • Alternative explanations, minority reports, disagreements about what is going on in the site • Next steps for data collection • Implications for revision, updating of coding scheme Based on Miles and Huberman, 1994: 78 23
  24. 24. Research outline Auerbach & Silverstein (2003, p.44) recommend that you keep a copy of your research concern, theoretical framework, central research question, goals of the study, and other major issues on one page in front of you to keep you focused and allay your anxieties because the page focuses your coding decisions.
  25. 25. Next steps e.g. create a research outline and print it for my desk, write a template for a contact sheet for each interview
  26. 26. Workshop 3: Seeing the whole
  27. 27. 27 "The majority of projects arrive at a good conclusion by steady steps through analysis processes rather than a grand moment of discovery. Arrival will be confirmed by growing confidence that you really know what’s going on. It happens, in other words, over time, through thinking and working with the data.” (Richards, 2009:143)
  28. 28. Saldaña, 2013: 12
  29. 29. 2nd cycle coding The process that enables you to move from multiple codes in the 1st cycle/s of coding to a few major themes/categories/concepts or at least one theory/narrative. Saldaña, 2013: 12
  30. 30. 2nd cycle coding methods • 1st cycle: In Vivo, process and initial coding • 2nd cycle coding: • Focused coding: finding thematic/conceptual similarity; • Axial coding: relations between a category’s properties and dimensions; • Theoretical coding: discovering the central/core category that identifies the primary research theme; • More in Saldaña, 2013, ch.5
  31. 31. 31 Other focusing strategies
  32. 32. 32 • Clustered in < 10 minutes (Miles & Huberman) –Information-Processing Capacities –SCANNING/EXPLORING –scan, skim, look into, pick over, inspect, dip into, flip through,browse, glance into, leaf through, glean, –ORDERING/REVIEWING –itemize, list, review, –SELECTING –select, edit, single out, choose, screen, filter, skip 32 Clustering
  33. 33. The “top 10” list • extract just 10 quotes or short passages from your data that strike you as most vivid/representational of your study; • print each on a separate page; • arrange them in various orders: chronologically, hierarchically, telescopically, episodically, narratively, from the smallest detail to the bigger picture etc
  34. 34. The study’s “trinity” The 3 major codes/categories/themes/concepts that stand out. Steps: 1. Write each on a separate piece of paper and arrange them in a triangle; 2. Which is the apex or dominant item and why? In what ways does this apex influence and affect or interrelate with the other codes etc? 3. Explore other three-way combinations.
  35. 35. Codeweaving Codeweaving is the actual integration of key code words and phrases into narrative form to see how the puzzle pieces fit together. Steps: 1. Codeweave primary codes/categories/themes into as few sentences as possible; 2. Write several variations to investigate how the items interrelate, suggest causation, indicate process or work holistically to create a broader theme. 3. Search for evidence in your data to prove & disprove your statements and revise.
  36. 36. 36 • Why are metaphors powerful tools in qualitative analysis? • Cognitive linguistics tell us that our cognitive apparatus is fundamentally metaphorical, and central to the development of thought. • Lakoff & Johnson (1980) e.g. argue that we perceive and act in accordance with metaphors. That metaphors are matters of thought and not of language. 36 Metaphors
  37. 37. 37 Metaphors Metaphors as analytical tools: According to Miles & Huberman (1994) metaphors can serve as a)data-reducing devices; b)pattern-making devices; c)decentering devices; and d)can connect findings to theory. 37
  38. 38. 38 Metaphors as a) data-reducing devices: “They are data-reducing devices, taking several particulars and making a single generality of them. For instance the "scapegoat" metaphor pulls together into one package facts about group norms treatment of deviants, social rituals, and social rationalizations. This ability is not to be sneezed at." (Miles & Huberman, 1994:250-52) 38 Metaphors
  39. 39. 39 Metaphors as b) pattern-making devices: “For example, in the school improvement study, we found at one site that the remedial learning room was something like an "oasis" for the pupils [...] (A teacher used the word spontaneously, and we began to see the pattern.) The metaphor "oasis" pulls together separate bits of information: The larger school is harsh (like a desert); not only can students rest in the remedial room, but they also can get sustenance (learning); some resources are very abundant there (like water in an oasis); and so on.” (Miles and Huberman, 1994:252) 39 Metaphors
  40. 40. 40 Metaphors as c) decentering devices: “..metaphors will not let you simply describe or denote a phenomenon, you have to move up a notch to a more inferential or analytical level.” (Miles and Huberman, 1994:252) 40 Metaphors
  41. 41. 41 Metaphors as d) a means of connecting findings to theory: “The metaphor is halfway from the empirical facts to the conceptual significance of those facts; it gets you up and over the particulars en route to the basic social processes that give meaning to those particulars. [...] In doing that, you're shifting from facts to processes, and those processes are likely to account for the phenomena being studied at the most inferential level.” (Miles and Huberman, 1994:252) 41 Metaphors
  42. 42. A good reporting checklist • Clearly explain the steps you followed during the analysis process (transparency). • Develop a good plot that will allow you to present an interesting story that encompasses plausible answers to your research questions. • Illustrate with verbatim quotes from data, but do not expect data to speak for themselves. • Make sure any quotes have been stripped of identifiable elements if applicable. • Cover all different perspectives and exceptions: a rich account. • Acknowledge limitations and convince the reader by discussing other possible explanations. • Relate findings back to literature.
  43. 43. Happy coding  43
  44. 44. Extra slides that we didn’t get to in the workshop 44
  45. 45. From coding to theorizing
  46. 46. Elements of a theory 3 main characteristics: 1. predicts and controls action through an if- then logic; 2. explains how and/or why something happens by stating its cause(s); 3. provides insights and guidance for improving social life.
  47. 47. • Many theories are provisional therefore language should be tentative; • “Theory is in the eye of the beholder” (p114) • “A theory is not so much a story as much as it is a proverb. It is a condensed lesson of wisdom we formulate from our experiences that we pass along to other generations.” (p250) Elements of a theory
  48. 48. Theories as “categories of categories” • Look for possible structures... • Taxonomy: categories of equal importance; • Hierarchy: from most to least (frequency, importance, impact etc); • Overlap: share some features while retaining some unique properties; • Sequential order: progresses in a linear way; • Concurrency: two or more categories operate simultaneously to influence and affect a third; • Domino effects: categories cascade forward in multiple pathways; • Networks: categories interact and interplay in complex
  49. 49. Categories and analytic memos as sources for theory • Memo-writing to complete the sentence: “The theory constructed from this study is...” • Give it time to ‘brew and steep’ • Or try a key assertion (Erickson, 1986): a summative and data-supported statement about the particulars of a research study rather than a generalizable and transferrable meanings • e.g. “Quality high school theatre and speech experiences can not only significantly influence but even accelerate adolescent development and provide residual, positive, lifelong impacts throughout adulthood” (p5) • i.e. you don’t always have to develop theory

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