CHAPTER10Qualitative Data AnalysisFeatures of Qualitative Data AnalysisQualitative Data Analysis as an ArtQualitative Compared With QuantitativeData AnalysisNarrative AnalysisGrounded TheoryQualitative Comparative AnalysisCase-Oriented UnderstandingTechniques of Qualitative Data AnalysisVisual SociologyDocumentationConceptualization, Coding, and CategorizingExamining Relationships and Displaying DataAuthenticating ConclusionsReflexivityMixed MethodsAlternatives in Qualitative Data ersation AnalysisCombining Qualitative MethodsCombining Qualitativeand Quantitative MethodsCase Study: Juvenile Court RecordsCase Study: Mental Health SystemCase Study: Housing Loss in Group HomesComputer-Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysisEthics in Qualitative Data AnalysisConclusionsI was at lunch standing in line and he [another male student] came up to my face and started saying stuffand then he pushed me. I said . . . I’m cool with you, I’m your friend and then he push me again and callingme names. I told him to stop pushing me and then he push me hard and said something about my mom.And then he hit me, and I hit him back. After he fell I started kicking him.—Morrill et al. (2000:521)320
Chapter 10 Qualitative Data Analysis 321Unfortunately, this statement was not made by a soap opera actor but by a real student writing anin-class essay about conflicts in which he had participated. But then you already knew that suchconflicts are common in many high schools, so perhaps it will be reassuring to know that thisstatement was elicited by a team of social scientists who were studying conflicts in high schools tobetter understand their origins and to inform prevention policies.The first difference between qualitative and quantitative data analysis is that the data to be analyzed aretext, rather than numbers, at least when the analysis first begins. Does it trouble you to learn that there are novariables and hypotheses in this qualitative analysis by Morrill et al. (2000)? This, too, is another differencebetween the typical qualitative and quantitative approaches to analysis, although there are some exceptions.In this chapter, I present the features that most qualitative data analyses share, and I will illustrate thesefeatures with research on youth conflict and on being homeless. You will quickly learn that there is no oneway to analyze textual data. To quote Michael Quinn Patton (2002), “Qualitative analysis transforms datainto findings. No formula exists for that transformation. Guidance, yes. But no recipe. Direction can and willbe offered, but the final destination remains unique for each inquirer, known only when—and if—arrivedat” (p. 432).I will discuss some of the different types of qualitative data analysis before focusing on computer programs for qualitative data analysis; you will see that these increasingly popular programs are blurring thedistinctions between quantitative and qualitative approaches to textual analysis.22Features of Qualitative Data AnalysisThe distinctive features of qualitative data collection methods that you studied in Chapter 9 are also reflectedin the methods used to analyze those data. The focus on text—on qualitative data rather than on numbers—isthe most important feature of qualitative analysis. The “text” that qualitative researchers analyze is most oftentranscripts of interviews or notes from participant observation sessions, but text can also refer to pictures orother images that the researcher examines.What can the qualitative data analyst learn from a text? Here qualitative analysts may have two differentgoals. Some view analysis of a text as a way to understand what participants “really” thought, felt, or did insome situation or at some point in time. The text becomes a way to get “behind the numbers” that are recordedin a quantitative analysis to see the richness of real social experience. Other qualitative researchers haveadopted a hermeneutic perspective on texts—that is, a perspective that views a text as an interpretation thatcan never be judged true or false. The text is only one possible interpretation among many (Patton 2002:114).The meaning of a text, then, is negotiated among a community of interpreters, and to the extent that someagreement is reached about meaning at a particular time and place, that meaning can only be based on consensual community validation.From a hermeneutic perspective, a researcher is constructing a “reality” with his or her interpretationsof a text provided by the subjects of research; other researchers, with different backgrounds, could come tomarkedly different conclusions.You can see in this discussion about text that qualitative and quantitative data analyses also differ in thepriority given to the prior views of the researcher and to those of the subjects of the research. Qualitative dataanalysts seek to describe their textual data in ways that capture the setting or people who produced this text
322 Investigating the Social Worldon their own terms rather than in terms of predefined measures and hypotheses. What this means is thatqualitative data analysis tends to be inductive—the analyst identifies important categories in the data, aswell as patterns and relationships, through a process of discovery. There are oftenno predefined measures or hypotheses. Anthropologists term this an emic focus,Emic focus Representing a settingwhich means representing the setting in terms of the participants and their viewwith the participants’ terms andfrom their viewpoint.point, rather than an etic focus, in which the setting and its participants are represented in terms that the researcher brings to the study.Etic focus Representing a settingwith the researchers’ terms andGood qualitative data analyses also are distinguished by their focus on the interfrom their viewpoint.related aspects of the setting, group, or person under investigation—the case—rather than breaking the whole into separate parts. The whole is always understoodto be greater than the sum of its parts, and so the social context of events, thoughts, and actions becomesessential for interpretation. Within this framework, it doesn’t really make sense to focus on two variables outof an interacting set of influences and test the relationship between just those two.Qualitative data analysis is an iterative and reflexive process that begins as data are being collected ratherthan after data collection has ceased (Stake 1995). Next to her field notes or interview transcripts, the qualitative analyst jots down ideas about the meaning of the text and how it might relateto other issues. This process of reading through the data and interpreting themProgressive focusing Thecontinues throughout the project. The analyst adjusts the data collection processprocess by which a qualitativeitself when it begins to appear that additional concepts need to be investigated oranalyst interacts with the data andnew relationships explored. This process is termed progressive focusing (Parlett &gradually refines her focus.Hamilton 1976).We emphasize placing an interpreter in the field to observe the workings of the case, one who recordsobjectively what is happening but simultaneously examines its meaning and redirects observation torefine or substantiate those meanings. Initial research questions may be modified or even replaced inmid-study by the case researcher. The aim is to thoroughly understand [the case]. If early questionsare not working, if new issues become apparent, the design is changed. (Stake 1995:9)Elijah Anderson (2003) describes the progressive focusing process in his memoir about his study ofJelly’s Bar.Throughout the study, I also wrote conceptual memos to myself to help sort out my findings. Usuallyno more than a page long, they represented theoretical insights that emerged from my engagementwith the data in my field notes. As I gained tenable hypotheses and propositions, I began to listen andobserve selectively, focusing on those events that I thought might bring me alive to my research interests and concerns. This method of dealing with the information I was receiving amounted to a kind ofa dialogue with the data, sifting out ideas, weighing new notions against the reality with which I wasfaced there on the streets and back at my desk (pp. 235–236).Carrying out this process successfully is more likely if the analyst reviews a few basic guidelines when heor she starts the process of analyzing qualitative data (Miller & Crabtree 1999b:142–143): Know yourself, your biases, and preconceptions. Know your question. Seek creative abundance. Consult others and keep looking for alternative interpretations.
Chapter 10 Qualitative Data Analysis 323 Be flexible. Exhaust the data. Try to account for all the data in the texts, then publicly acknowledge the unexplained and remember the next principle. Celebrate anomalies. They are the windows to insight. Get critical feedback. The solo analyst is a great danger to self and others. Be explicit. Share the details with yourself, your team members, and your audiences.Qualitative Data Analysis as an ArtIf you find yourself longing for the certainty of predefined measures and deductively derived hypotheses, youare beginning to understand the difference between setting out to analyze data quantitatively and planning todo so with a qualitative approach in mind. Or, maybe you are now appreciating better the contrast between thepositivist and interpretivist research philosophies that I summarized in Chapter 3. When it comes right downto it, the process of qualitative data analysis is even described by some as involving as much “art” as science—as a “dance,” in the words of William Miller and Benjamin Crabtree (1999b) (Exhibit 10.1):Interpretation is a complex and dynamic craft, with as much creative artistry as technical exactitude, and it requires an abundance of patient plodding, fortitude, and discipline. There are manychanging rhythms; multiple steps; moments of jubilation, revelation, and exasperation. . . . Thedance of interpretation is a dance for two, but those two are often multiple and frequently changing,and there is always an audience, even if it is not always visible. Two dancers are the interpreters andthe texts. (pp. 138–139)Dance of Qualitative AnalysisEditingILRRLLIRLTemplateOrganizing StyleImmersion/CrystalizationExhibit 10.1TimeLRRLI
324 Investigating the Social WorldMiller and Crabtree (1999b) identify three different modes of reading the text within the dance of qualitative data analysis:1. When the researcher reads the text literally, she is focused on its literal content and form, so thetext “leads” the dance.2. When the researcher reads the text reflexively, she focuses on how her own orientation shapes herinterpretations and focus. Now, the researcher leads the dance.3. When the researcher reads the text interpretively, she tries to construct her own interpretation ofwhat the text means.Sherry Turkle’s (2011) book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More From Technology and Less From EachOther, provides many examples of this analytic dance, although of course in the published book we are nolonger able to see that dance in terms of her original notes. She often describes what she observed in classrooms. Here’s an example of such a literal focus, reflecting her experience in MIT’s Media Lab at the start of themobile computing revolution:In the summer of 1996, I met with seven young researchers at the MIT Media Lab who carried computers and radio transmitters in their backpacks and keyboards in their pockets. . . . they calledthemselves “cyborgs” and were always wirelessly connected to the Internet, always online, free fromdesks and cables. (Turkle 2011:151)Such literal reports are interspersed with interpretive comments about the meaning of her observations:The cyborgs were a new kind of nomad, wandering in and out of the physical real. . . . The multiplicityof worlds before them set them apart; they could be with you, but they were always somewhere else aswell. (Turkle 2011:152)And several times in each chapter, Turkle (2011) makes reflexive comments on her own reactions:I don’t like the feeling of always being on call. But now, with a daughter studying abroad who expectsto reach me when she wants to reach me, I am grateful to be tethered to her through the Net. . . . eventhese small things allow me to identify with the cyborgs’ claims of an enhanced experience. Tetheredto the Internet, the cyborgs felt like more than they could be without it. Like most people, I experiencea pint-sized version of such pleasures. (p. 153)In this artful way, the qualitative data analyst reports on her notes from observing or interviewing, interprets those notes, and considers how she reacts to the notes. These processes emerge from reading the notesand continue while editing the notes and deciding how to organize them, in an ongoing cycle.Qualitative Compared With Quantitative Data AnalysisWith this process in mind, let’s review the many ways in which qualitative data analysis differs from quantitativeanalysis (Denzin & Lincoln 2000:8–10; Patton 2002:13–14). Each difference reflects the qualitative data analysts’orientation to in-depth, comprehensive understanding in which the analyst is an active participant as comparedto the quantitative data analysts’ role as a dispassionate investigator of specific relations among discrete variables: A focus on meanings rather than on quantifiable phenomena Collection of many data on a few cases rather than few data on many cases
Chapter 10 Qualitative Data Analysis 325 Study in depth and detail, without predetermined categories or directions, rather than emphasis onanalyses and categories determined in advance Conception of the researcher as an “instrument,” rather than as the designer of objective instrumentsto measure particular variables Sensitivity to context r