Archive | February, 2013

You may have your data, but do you have your data analysis plan?

25 Feb

Fast forward from 28th January (my last blog post) to today – supervision this morning with my data analysis plan in hand. The outcome? I can now get back to my data – nine months after I left it. I really can’t tell you how good that feels!

The development of my qualitative data analysis plan was that last little hurdle I needed to get over before I could return to my data, but it wasn’t straightforward. At times it even felt a little uncomfortable. However, forcing myself to ask very focused and specific questions about my research has enabled me to be pretty damn clear about how I am now going to deal with my data. Backtrack well over nine months ago when I had actually started analysing my data – I had jumped right in with little insight as to what I was looking for and why.

So… after writing my last blog post, I spent some time actually looking for examples of a qualitative analysis plan or even some indication of how to develop one. Despite lots of literature telling me that a data analysis plan is extremely important, I couldn’t actually find evidence of one. I found lots about different analytic strategies/frameworks to use – but this is not an analytic plan. From reading various papers and books and talking to people on twitter, I came up with some key questions that I needed to answer – which subsequently formed my analytical plan:

idea, plan, actionWhat are my research questions? (Extremely important as we know, but I needed to put a lot more thought into them)

What is the overall purpose of my analysis? (If I didn’t know the purpose of my analysis, how was I going to plan how to do it? This linked to my overarching research aim, philosophical and methodological approach in addition to the clinical relevance of my research – the so what question)

How does each of my (large) qualitative data sets connect to my research questions? (I needed to ensure that by analysing my data sets, my research questions could be answered – this was easiest explained as a diagram). This part also made me realise and accept that I have a lot of data that will not feature in my PhD. This is quite ok though as I can use them for future potential publications)

How am I going to conduct the analysis? (The trickiest one for me because I have 4 large (different) data sets, all gained by different methods – yet they are all connected in some way. Further discussion with my supervisors was required for this part. My two options were (1) Will I analyse each data set separately then pull them all together in a discussion? Or (2) Will I analyse them all together and present them in one findings chapter. Considering each option carefully, I listed pros and cons and talked through them in depth with my supervisors. Due to a number of reasons we all agreed on option 2. Within this section, I also had to consider my analytic framework. Again for a number of reasons, Miles and Huberman’s was the winner.

What do I need to ask of my data? (This was also a tricky one because I need to ensure that I have both a deductive and inductive approach to my analysis. I must ensure that I am not ‘blinded’ by my theoretical framework and that it is only there as a scaffold for my analysis. The development of some initial broad propositions helped me with this. This also connects closely with how I am going to conduct my analysis – always keeping my research questions at the forefront of all my decisions).

What resources do I need to conduct my analysis? (This was a simple one – time and patience! Also NVivo – lucky to have a licence with my institution and was fortunate to habe been funded to attend NVivo training).

What is my timeline? (Given all the issues that I have had to address over the last few months, I do not wish to be a slave to the calendar. However, having a rough idea of time is not a bad thing. I am looking at analysing and interpreting for the next 10 months – but who knows! As a part time PhD student, I am extremely fortunate to have a generous amount of protected study leave each year (in addition to a whole semester during the end stages))

So here I have presented important questions that I studied carefully in order to develop my analysis plan. I found this exercise to be extremely beneficial and it also helped my vocalise and rationalise my thoughts and ideas with my supervisors. I am now very excited about finally being able to return to my data, reading my transcripts and listening to my audio recordings (even though I cringe hearing myself ask strange questions, ask 3 questions at once, not letting participants finish, laugh inappropriately, not pick up on a cue, sometimes not make any sense, or just sound ridiculous!)

On a final note, at the end of my analysis plan, I have this – which I like very much:

Lyn Richards (2005) and Bazeley (2009) list five key signs which indicate that the analysis is sufficient:

• Simplicity: a small ‘polished gem of a theory’, rather than a mere pebble of truism
• Elegance and balance: it is coherent
• Completeness: it explains all
• Robustness: it doesn’t fall over with new data
• It makes sense to relevant audiences

Thank you for taking the time to read. Did you develop a similar plan or have you approached this differently. I would be very interested in hearing different/similar approaches so please do leave a comment ….

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