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The Qualitative Analysis Trap (or, Coding Until Blue in the Face)

There is a trap that is easy to fall into when conducting a thematic-style analysis of qualitative data. The trap revolves around coding and, specifically, the idea that after a general familiarization with the in-depth interview or focus group discussion content the researcher pores over the data scrupulously looking for anything deemed worthy of a code. If you think this process is daunting for the seasoned analyst who has categorized and themed many qualitative data sets, consider the newly initiated graduate student who is learning the process for the first time.

Recent dialog on social media suggests that graduate students, in particular, are susceptible to falling into the qualitative analysis trap, i.e., the belief that a well done analysis hinges on developing lots of codes and coding, coding, coding until…well, until the analyst is blue in the face. This is evident by overheard comments such as “I thought I finished coding but every day I am finding new content to code” and “My head is buzzing with all the possible directions for themes.”

Coding of course misses the point. The point of qualitative analysis is not to deconstruct the interview or discussion data into bits and pieces, i.e., codes, but rather to define the research question from participants’ perspectives Read Full Text

Distinguishing Qualitative Research Methods from Paradigm Orientation

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 17-20).

A good deal has been written about paradigms in qualitative Method from Paradigm Orientationresearch as they relate to assessing quality (Greene, 1994; Lather, 2004; Lincoln & Guba, 1985; Morrow, 2005; Patton, 1978; Ponterotto, 2013; Rolfe, 2006). Some scholars, such as Rolfe (2006), start from the premise that

“any attempt to establish a consensus on quality criteria for qualitative research is unlikely to succeed for the simple reason that there is no unified body or theory [i.e., an accepted paradigm], methodology or method that can collectively be described as qualitative research; indeed, [I believe] that the very idea of qualitative research is open to question” (p. 305, emphasis in original).

Rolfe opines that “if there is no unified qualitative research paradigm, then it makes little sense to attempt to establish a set of generic criteria for making quality judgments about qualitative research studies” (2006, p. 304). This line of thinking, however, confounds attention to methods and Read Full Text

Transcribing & Transcriptions in Narrative Research

The following is a modified excerpt from Applied Qualitative Research Design: A Total Quality Framework Approach (Roller & Lavrakas, 2015, pp. 320-321).

The use of transcripts in qualitative research has been discussed elsewhere in Research Design Review (see this February 2017 article), emphasizing the idea that “it is by way of these Transcribing narrative researchtranscribed accounts of the researcher-participant exchange that analysts hope to re-live each research event and draw meaningful interpretations from the data.” The creation and use of transcriptions, however, take on special meaning in narrative research where the primary goal is to maintain the narrative as a whole unit. To this end, the narrative researcher must decide how best to construct the transcripts so they retain the story as it was told, while also facilitating the researcher’s ability to derive meaning from the data as it relates to the research objectives.

This process might result in any number of transcription formats. For example, Riessman (2008) presents two transcriptions of a conversation she had with a Hindu woman in a study of infertility: One transcription was developed around the “co-construction process” (i.e., the interviewer’s role in the narrative as it was told), and another transcription excluded the interviewer and was Read Full Text