Qualitative Analysis Skills: A Primer Part 1
What does it mean to have an ‘analysis plan’ for qualitative research?
When you have an analysis plan you know who will do what and how you are going to deal with the information.
- If you have several researchers working on a project, is everyone going to analyse their own interviews or groups independently or will you delegate it all to one person?
- Whether you are going to share the task, or if you are doing it all yourself, you need to know the answers to questions like these
There are ‘no right or wrong answers’ to these questions of course! The important part is that all analysts have to agree.
Having an analysis plan also means knowing whether you are going to do a top-down or bottom-up analysis or both (and if both, how and why will you do that?)
There are obvious disadvantages to both of these:
- With the deductive approach you may try to force a theory onto data which stubbornly resists it.
- With the bottom up approach, you are probably ignoring some really useful theories and ideas developed and fine-tuned by other people that will yield good insight.
Guess what the answer is? Use both!
Do you know the difference between content analysis and holistic analysis?
When you do Content Analysis, you identify themes and ideas
- Read the transcript
- Annotate all themes and ideas by hand or use qualitative software if you have the patience.
- Go back and do it again, because you will have changed your mind about what is a theme/idea as you worked your way through it.
- Repeat for all transcripts. Yes that was ‘all’.
- Link any themes and ideas that can be linked. See if you can build a mind map. If the mind map is obvious, go back to step I because you have missed something.
- Compare what you have found to the theory you are working with or to known marketing or social science theories to see if you have missed anything.
- Go back to the objectives. If you can’t answer the objectives go back to Step 1
In a true Content Analysis, you then count the themes and ideas, but many qualitative researchers would argue ‘counting’ and ‘qualitative research’ should never appear in the same sentence. In the case of social media analysis, it is almost impossible not to count though.
If you are using Leximancer you start with the map and then work backwards.
Have you noticed the major disadvantage of this approach?
You have taken the words and ideas of living, breathing, thinking, feeling human beings and reduced them to a list of themes. Holistic analysis in contrast focusses on the person. In our sense-making research for example, we follow what one person does to make sense of their experience.
Ethnographic research lends itself to holistic analysis because it is usually small in scale. Online communities and large scale focus group studies are hard to analyse holistically. Your choice of analysis method was made for you when you chose your data collection method.
I will be publishing more about qualitative analysis in Primer Part 2.