Qualitative analysis: Where to begin?

16 May

So Monday and Tuesday of this week, following recommendations from one of my supervisors, I atteImagended a qualitative analysis course run by Liz Spencer (one half of Jane Ritchie who developed Framework). I am using Framework for my analysis management with the help of NVivo 9. Details in Chapter 9 of this book (a revised version is being written as we speak).

This course was organised (very well) by the Social Research Association http://www.the-sra.org.uk/sra_scotland.htm

I am now at the stage of having all my qualitative data there (a lot of data!), ready to do something with it! I have spent hours and hours and hours of reading qualitative analysis books and papers and thought I pretty much knew what I had to do. At least in the early stages of analysis anyway. I have also conducted previous qualitative research. Attending this course made me realise that I didn’t know everything and that my previous research has been mainly descriptive. One of my constant niggling worries was moving from the descriptive to the more conceptual stage of analysis and I just couldn’t see how I would be able to do that.

I had high expectations of this course, but it surpassed all my expectations and more. After getting over the star struck feeling of meeting Liz (who is absolutely wonderful by the way and an amazing teacher), I learned more in two days than I think I could ever learn from a text book. One of my main (simple) take home messages was that I cannot get to the conceptual stage and begin proving explanations etc., until I went through all the descriptive stages. This of course takes time and patience. For me, I am now MUCH clearer as to what I need to do at each stage (Liz Spencer’s words – ‘Framework is not an analytic strategy, it is a data management tool to help you work through the process. What we are doing is thematic analysis using this tool’) – a revision I need to make in my methodology chapter!

I am not going to go into any more detail about what I learned here, but what I intend to do is post regular short sharp blogs throughout each stage of my analysis. This I hope will help anyone doing analysis (or about to do analysis). I would also very much welcome comments, questions etc. as it really can help us all learn and develop as we go.


My final piece of advice at this stage would be if the opportunity is available to you, definitely go on one of these courses. I promise you will learn so much…


2 Responses to “Qualitative analysis: Where to begin?”

  1. Gareth Thomas January 6, 2017 at 12:14 am #

    Hi Emma

    I am slowly going through your entire blog but still at the beginning, its nice to read about someone else’s journey. I am doing a PhD in Health Psychology and I’m in my third year just started. I am doing a mixed method with more focus on quantitative but I am writing chapter 2 which is qualitative, so I am reading your blog with interest. This is my least favourite method of analysis and so I am using IPA. I designed an intervention for people with spinal cord injury and it went great, in fact better than I had hoped. However I am struggling with the write up of my results, I have analysed the data (7 interviews) but I can’t say I ever became one with the data. I believe this is because its not my first choice of methodology so any help and advice I can get is welcomed. I have to add that I do have empathy for the participants as I was spinal cord injured whilst in the army.

    It would be great to get some advice.

    Thanks in advance

    • Emma Burnett January 6, 2017 at 11:14 am #

      Hi Gaz. Most of us do lean more favourably towards one approach. I would say I am like you with quantitative data. Others may be able to jump in here and offer their perspectives/advice, but I would say when you are writing, try to get in the mindset that you are portraying their accounts in the form of a story. So put yourself in your participant’s shoes and write up their story (rather than seeing yourself as a researcher telling someone else’s story. It would probably help also to listen to your audio recordings at the same time to feel that connection. You’ve done the hard part in the analysis, so I wouldn’t stress too much (particularly if your thesis is predominantly quantitative. I don’t know how easy this would be or if time would allow, but it might be useful asking your participants (or some of them) to do a focus group whereby you present your findings and tell them their story and ask for comments, suggestions etc. Just to note, this is not a way of member checking, rather more like an informal dissemination session and to generate their thoughts on what you have produced. It might not be something you have time for, but just an idea. Good luck 🙂

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