Research - Skill - Analysing qualitative data

Malc Prentice

Plan your analysis BEFORE data collection

What are you trying to find?

Research Diary

Don't forget to take notes on problems, ideas, data you should collect next (either for this project, or in future research). These go into your Discussion section, and help the reader decide how accurate, detailed and truthful you are being.


What is a code?

A code is a short word to help you remember a theme.

Codes can come from subjects own words (an "in vivo" code)

Codes can also come from the literature (an "a priori" code)

Codes can change, combine & split later

Quote: "I don't like studying when the weather is cold"

Possible Codes: "likes", "dislikes", "weather"

How do I find codes?


A) Make up a theory (optional)

B) Look at your first transcript /diary / field note

C) Code it

D) Organise the codes

E) Make a theory that fits the organisation you find.

F) Check it for ("discrepant cases" or "negative evidence)

G) Repeat with the next the next case/interview/diary

H) When categories stop changing you are finished ("saturated").

I) Peer Validation (optional)

J) Respondent Validity (member check):

Alternatives to the above are

1) to use expensive "CAQDAS" programs (Atlas and Nvivo) if you have lots of data, money, help, and time.

2) Metacoding (limited use)

3) Use one of the stricter methods - e.g. "Analytic induction", "Constant comparison"

Cut and sort

For the interview project, I recommend "Cut and Sort"

1) Make sure each line has the speaker and line number

2) Print the transcript

3) Read it once. Highlight the important bits

4) Write a code next to each highlight (see below).

5) Next, cut the transcript into strips - one for each code

6) If one strip has more than one code, copy it

7) Shuffle the strips

8) Start making piles. For each new strip, ask "is this the same or different" for each pile.

9) Keep adding new strips and splitting/combining the piles until it makes sense

10) Split each pile into sub-piles, if necessary.

11) Name the piles and sub-piles. These are your themes.

For details, read page 94-96 of

Ryan, G. & Bernard, H.R. (2003). Techniques to Identify Themes. Field Methods, 15(1), 85-109