Qualitative Analysis

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					   Naturalistic Inquiry:
   Methods of Qualitative Analysis
Recurring Features, Multiple Approaches
& Analytic Method

E. Ayn Welleford, PhD,
VCU Department of Gerontology
             Recurring Features of
              Qualitative Method
Qualitative Research
   • Is Naturalistic
   • Is conducted through an intense and/or prolonged contact
     with a “field” or life situation
   • Typically involves normal day to day experiences,
     reflective of everyday life of individuals, groups, societies,
     and organizations.
   • Requires that the researcher gains a “holistic”
     (systematic, encompassing, integrated) overview of the
     context under study:its logic, arrangements, explicit or
     implicit rules
              Recurring Features of
              Qualitative Research
Qualitative Research
   • Attempts to capture data “from the inside” through
       – Deep attentiveness
       – Empathetic understanding
       – Suspending or “bracketing” preconceptions about the topics
         under discussion
   • Directs the researcher to isolate certain themes and
     expressions that can be reviewed with informants, but
     must be maintained in their original forms throughout the
           Recurring Features of
           Qualitative Research
Primary task:
explicate the ways people in particular settings
come to understand, account for, take action,
and otherwise manage their day-to-day
           Recurring Features of
           Qualitative Research
ah, the big question!

Many interpretations are possible but some are
more compelling for theoretical reasons or on
grounds of internal consistency
             Recurring Features of
             Qualitative Research
Qualitative Research
– Involves the researcher as a measurement device
– Involves little standardized instrumentation
   • Participant directed
   • Emergent process
– Involves mostly analysis of text data
   • Words are organized to permit the researcher to
     compare, contrast, analyze, and bestow patterns.
    Three Approaches to Qualitative
            Data Analysis
– Phenomenologists are looking for the deep understanding
– Capturing the essence of an account
– “interpretation” of the account by the actors and the
– Require that researcher is no more detached than the
– Often difficult to separate interviewer from interviewee
– Phenomenlogists generally do not use coding
– Semiotics, deconstructivism, aesthetic criticism,
    Three Approaches to Qualitative
            Data Analysis
Social anthropology
– Ethnographers focus on extended contact within a
  given community, looking for “patterns”, or “rules”
– Description of local particularities, individuals’
  perspectives and interpretations of their world
– Uses multiple data sources (language, artifacts,
– Condense the data with less concern for conceptual
  or theoretical meaning than observation
    Three Approaches to Qualitative
            Data Analysis
Social anthropology
– Many social anthropologists are interested in the
  genesis or refinement of theory and may begin with
  a conceptual framework and field test
– Cross-cultural theory in socialization, parenting, and
  kinship has resulted from field research
– Life history, Grounded theory, ecological psychology,
  narrative studies, wide range of family studies follow
  this line
    Three Approaches to Qualitative
            Data Analysis
Collaborative social research
– Action research is a general strategy for institutional
   • Researcher, with local help, design a “field experiment”
     (e.g., changing the offerings in a cafeteria, redesigning
     staffing of a unit, student evaluations, program evaluation)
   • Date are collated and given to the “activists” both as
     feedback and to craft the nest stage of operations
    Three Approaches to Qualitative
            Data Analysis
Collaborative social research
– Collaborative action research
   • Researchers join closely with the participants
     from the outset
   • The aim is the transform the social environment
     through a process of critical inquiry – to act on the
     world rather than being acted on.
   • Critical ethnography, action science
               Analytic Methods

Affixing codes to field note drawn from
observations or interviews
Noting reflections or other remarks in the
               Analytic Methods

Sorting to identify similar phrases, relationships
between variables, patterns, themes, distinct
differences between subgroups, and common
Isolating patterns and processes, commonalities
and differences, and taking them out to the field
in the next wave of data collection
              Analytic Methods

Gradually elaborating a small set of
generalizations that cover the consistencies
discerned in the database
Confronting those generalizations with a
formalized body of knowledge in the form of
constructs and theories
      Analytic Methods: Specific to
       Grounded Theory Method
Theoretical Sampling
Constant comparison
Generative & concept relating questions
Conceptual integration
Member checks
Peer review
      Analytic Methods: Specific to
       Grounded Theory Method

The object of grounded theory is to discover or
validate a conceptual framework that explains
the scene being investigated.
        Grounded Theory Method:
            Fit, Grab, & Work
To Fit, means that the categories that are
generated must be indicated by the data and
applied readily to the data
To have Grab, a theory must be relevant to the
participant group and the practice group.
To work, a theory should be able to explain what
happened, predict what will happen and interpret
what is happening
       Analytic Methods

        Data collection

        Data reduction

         Data display

Drawing & verifying conclusions
                           Process of
                  Constant Comparative Analysis

         Stage 1                   Data
         Stage 2
         Stage 3
         Stage 4                   Memos

Source: Pickler, R.H. 1990
      Strengths of Qualitative Data

Focus on naturally occurring, ordinary events in
natural settings
Local groundedness
Case based
Richness & holism “thick descriptions”
Sustained period of analysis
      Strengths of Qualitative Data

Assess causality
Flexibility - “emergent design”
Discovering the meanings of lived experience
Connecting meaning to the social world
      Strengths of Qualitative Data

Develop hypotheses
Test hypotheses
Supplement, validate, explain, illuminate, or
reinterpret quantitative data
 Weaknesses of Qualitative Analysis

Lengthy process
Stigma & Misunderstanding of qualitative
         Application to your work?

Jim Birren states that Gerontology as a field is
data rich but theory poor. How does this relate
to the need for qualitative exploration?

Can you see a use for qualitative data analysis
in your work?

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