Qualitative analysis

Qualitative analysis is a term for the analysis of data that are not numeric. The concept, however, means different things to researchers, depending on the type of approach they take. Not only the nature of the data varies (responses to open-ended questions, narrative field notes, interview transcripts, personal diaries, public documents, etc.) but even if two researchers were to analyse the same text, their strategies and outcomes are likely to be quite different, each justified in the light of their epistemological and research frameworks. It is necessary, therefore, to take into account the variations in the processes that researchers employ when they set about analysing qualitative data. Moreover, qualitative research tends to lay considerable emphasis on situational and often structural contexts, in contrast to quantitative research, which is often multivariate but weak on context. Qualitative research tends to be weak on cross-comparisons.1

Despite many practical variations, the stages in qualitative research follow the lines indicated in Figure 11.1. This may include initial background reading of related documents and formal or informal discussions, followed by focus group or depth interviews, or even open-ended survey questionnaires. Taken together, this constitutes the data-collection stage. The next step involves the subject matter of this chapter: an analysis of transcripts from interviews, discussions and other sources. In the analysis, the data have first to be reduced into a manageable form and from the more manageable form abstractions from the data, usually referred

Immersion: transcripts and fieldnotes

Data collection

Data collection

to as events, are then categorised. This can then lead to the synthesis of ideas and testable propositions.

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