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Anal yzing qualitative data requires understanding how to make sense of text and images so that you can form answers to your research questions. In this chapter, you will learn about the six steps involved in analyzing and interpreting qualitative
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  236 A  nalyzing qualitative data requires understanding how to make sense of text and images so that you can form answers to your research questions. In this chapter,  you will learn about the six steps involved in analyzing and interpreting qualita- tive data: preparing and organizing the data, exploring and coding the database, describing findings and forming themes, representing and reporting findings, inter-  preting the meaning of the findings, and validating the accuracy of the findings. By the end of this chapter, you should be able to: ◆ Identify the six steps in the process of analyzing and interpreting qualitative data. ◆ Describe how to prepare and organize the data for analysis. ◆ Describe how to explore and code the data. ◆ Use codes to build description and themes. ◆ Construct a representation and reporting of qualitative findings. ◆ Make an interpretation of the qualitative findings. ◆  Advance validation for the accuracy of your findings.  After completing her first interview with a student, Maria starts the process of analyzing her qualitative data. She first transcribes the audiotapes from the interview. She ends up  with a 20-page transcript. As she reads the transcript, she writes some notes in the mar-gins. These notes record her first impressions, such as “students need to protect them-selves with weapons” or “everyone carries weapons.” Reading the transcript again, Maria asks herself, What are the students saying that answers my research questions?   She learns that they are describing places in the school in which students likely carry weapons.  Also, she learns that certain themes or patterns emerge in their responses. She groups the student responses into five themes about the experiences of students carrying weap-ons in school: self-protection, common practice, hiding places, fear of being caught, and sanctions if caught. She develops a table that summarizes these themes, and she writes Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Data 8  CHAPTER  CHAPTER 8  Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Data 237 down how these themes reflect or differ from experiences reported by other researchers in the literature. She also takes the themes back to a few students in a focus group and asks them whether she accurately identifies their experiences. WHAT ARE THE SIX STEPS IN ANALYZING AND INTERPRETING QUALITATIVE DATA? Maria has proceeded through the six steps commonly used in analyzing qualitative data. These steps are not always taken in sequence, but they represent preparing and organ-izing the data for analysis; engaging in an initial exploration of the data through the process of coding it; using the codes to develop a more general picture of the data— descriptions and themes; representing the findings through narratives and visuals; mak-ing an interpretation of the meaning of the results by reflecting personally on the impact of the findings and on the literature that might inform the findings; and finally, conduct-ing strategies to validate the accuracy of the findings.  You can visualize the first major steps in this process by examining the “bottom-up” approach to analysis inFigure8.1. As shown in the figure, qualitative researchers first collect data and then prepare it for data analysis. This analysis initially consists of devel-oping a general sense of the data, and then coding description and themes about the central phenomenon. Let’s look at some of the features of this process in more detail. FIGURE 8.1 The Qualitative Process of Data Analysis Codes the Text forCodes the TextDescription to Be Usedfor Themes to Be Usedin the Research Reportin the Research Report Simultaneous The Researcher Codes the Data(i.e., locates text segments and Iterative assigns a code label to them)The Researcher Reads Through Data(i.e., obtains a general sense of material)The Researcher Prepares Data for Analysis(i.e., transcribes fieldnotes)The Researcher Collects Data(i.e., a text file such as fieldnotes,transcriptions, or optically scannedmaterial)  238 PART II  The Steps in the Process of Research  ◆ It is inductive in form, going from the particular or the detailed data (e.g., transcrip-tions or typed notes from interviews) to the general codes and themes. Keeping this in mind helps you understand how qualitative researchers produce broad themes or categories from diverse detailed databases. Although the initial analysis consists of subdividing the data (later we will discuss coding   the data), the final goal is to generate a larger, consolidated picture (Tesch, 1990). ◆ It involves a simultaneous process of analyzing while you are also collecting data. In qualitative research, the data collection and analysis (and perhaps the report  writing) are simultaneous activities. When you are collecting data, you may also be analyzing other information previously collected, looking for major ideas. This pro-cedure differs from traditional approaches in quantitative   research, in which data collection occurs first, followed by data analysis. ◆ The phases are also iterative, meaning you cycle back and forth between data col-lection and analysis. In qualitative research, you might collect stories from individu-als and return for more information to fill in gaps in their stories as your analysis of their stories proceeds. ◆ Qualitative researchers analyze their data by reading it several times and conduct-ing an analysis each time. Each time you read your database, you develop a deeper understanding about the information supplied by your participants. ◆ There is no single, accepted approach to analyzing qualitative data, although sev-eral guidelines exist for this process (see Dey, 1993; Miles & Huberman, 1994). It is an eclectic process. ◆ Qualitative research is “interpretive” research, in which you make a personal assessment as to a description that fits the situation or themes that capture the major categories of information. The interpretation that you make of a transcript, for example, differs from the interpretation that someone else makes. This does not mean that your interpretation is better or more accurate; it simply means that you bring your own perspective to your interpretation. HOW DO YOU PREPARE AND ORGANIZE THE DATA FOR ANALYSIS? Initial preparation of the data for analysis requires organizing the vast amount of infor-mation, transferring it from spoken or written words to a typed file and making decisions about whether to analyze the data by hand or by computer. Organize Data  At an early stage in qualitative analysis, you organize data into file folders or computer files. Organization of data is critical in qualitative research because of the large amount of infor-mation gathered during a study. The extensive data that an interview yields often surprises new researchers. For example, a 30-minute interview will often result in about 20 pages of single-spaced transcription. With this sizable amount of data, the transcribing and organizing of information requires a system of organization, which could take several forms, such as: ◆ Developing a matrix or a table of sources that can be used to help organize the material ◆ Organizing the materials by type: all interviews, all observations, all documents, and all photographs or other visual materials; as an alternative, you might consider  CHAPTER 8  Analyzing and Interpreting Qualitative Data 239 organizing the materials by participant, site, location, or some combination of these approaches ◆ Keeping duplicate copies of all forms of data Transcribe Data During qualitative data collection, you will collect text or words through interviewing participants or by writing fieldnotes during observations. This necessitates a need to con- vert these words to a computer document for analysis. Alternatively, you might listen to the tapes or read your fieldnotes to begin the process of analysis. When time is short or funds are scarce, you may be able to have only a few interviews or a few observational notes transcribed. The most complete procedure, however, is to have all interviews and all observational notes transcribed. As a general rule of thumb, it takes approximately 4 hours to transcribe 1 hour of tape (Dana Miller, personal communication, April 11, 2000). Hence, the process of transcription is labor intensive and you will need to allow adequate time for it.  Transcription   is the process of converting audiotape recordings or fieldnotes into text data.Figure8.2 lists suggestions for conducting a taped interview from the tran-scriptionist’s point of view. You may use a transcriptionist to type your text files or you can transcribe the information yourself. In either case, for interview data, transcription-ists need special equipment to help create the transcript. This equipment consists of a machine that enables the transcriber to start and stop tape recordings or to play them at a speed so that the transcriber can easily follow them. Here are a few more guidelines to facilitate transcription: ◆ Create 2-inch margins on each side of the text document so that you can jot down notes in the margins during data analysis. ◆ Leave extra space on the page between the interviewer’s comments and the inter- viewee’s comments. This enables you to distinguish clearly between speakers dur-ing data analysis. ◆ Highlight or mark in some way the questions asked by the interviewer. You will not analyze your questions, but identifying them clearly indicates where one question ends and another begins. Often, you will analyze all answers to a single question. ◆ Use complete, detailed headers that contain information about the interview or observational session. Examine interview and observational protocols to see the type of content to be included in a transcription. ◆ Transcribe all words, and type the word “[  pause  ]” to indicate when interviewees take a lengthy break in their comments. These pauses may provide useful informa-tion about times when interviewees cannot or will not respond to a question. You can also record other actions occurring during an interview. For example, type “[ laughter   ]” when the interviewee laughs, “[ telephone rings  ]” to indicate a phone call that interrupts the interview, or “[ inaudible  ]” to mark when the transcriptionist cannot determine what is being said. As a general approach, transcribing all words  will provide data that captures the details of an interview. Analyze by Hand or Computer  With the popularity of computers, researchers have a choice about whether to hand analyze data or to use a computer. The hand analysis of qualitative data   means that researchers read the data, mark it by hand, and divide it into parts. Traditionally, analyz-ing text data involves using color coding to mark parts of the text or cutting and pasting  240 PART II  The Steps in the Process of Research  text sentences onto cards. Some qualitative researchers like to hand analyze all of their data. A hand analysis may be preferred when you: ◆  Are analyzing a small database (e.g., fewer than 500 pages of transcripts or field-notes) and can easily keep track of files and locate text passages ◆  Are not comfortable using computers or have not learned a qualitative computer software program ◆  Want to be close to the data and have a hands-on feel for it without the intrusion of a machine ◆ Have time to commit to a hand analysis, since it is a labor-intensive activity to manually sort, organize, and locate words in a text database FIGURE 8.2 Hints for Transcribing Audiotaped Interviews Source:   Adapted from the January 1990 “Words” newsletter, Teachers College Word Processing Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Marlene Starr and Donald C. Freed, editors. Hints for Taped Interviews:The Transcriptionist’s ViewDonald Callen FreedWord Processing Center atTeachers College, University of Nebraska at Lincolnquestions slowly and distinctly, so that theinterviewee will respond in a like manner.Practicekeeping your voice up all the way to the end of thesentence, using clear diction.Important questionsor probes are sometimes lost because theinterviewer trails off or speaks less distinctly at theend of the sentence.5.Use new, high-quality  tapes and good, well-maintained recording equipment.If you must relyon previously used tapes, make sure they havebeen used only once or twice.Older tapes oftenhave bleed-over from previous recordings, and aremore likely to jam in a machine.In general,transcription equipment works best with 60-minutetapes.Standard-size cassette tapes work muchbetter than micro- or mini-cassettes, and are moreeasily turned over in an interview.6.Think clearly about the format you want for yourprinted transcription.Consider the margin size andthe amount of space you want left for comments,double or triple spacing, large margins for codingpurposes, etc.Following these steps can ensure better quality foryour research transcriptions, making research easierand your results more accurate.A transcriptionist canonly type what he or she can hear.A small amount offorethought and attention to detail on the interviewer’spart can result in a better interview tape andtranscription.The following suggestions are a result of several yearsof experience transcribing research interview tapes.They are offered for your consideration in order thatyour transcription may be easier and less timeconsuming.These suggestions were srcinallydeveloped for persons who have their tapesprofessionally transcribed, although many areapplicable to those who transcribe their own tapes.1.Please use an external microphone.This placesvoices closer to the microphone, and away fromthe noise of the tape recorder itself.If you must use a machine with an internal microphone, placeit as close to both  interviewer and interviewee aspossible.High quality tape recorders also ensurebetter results and reduce background noise,especially if an external microphone is notavailable.(Most electronic supply shops haveexternal microphones, which are very inexpensive.)2.For telephone interviews, please use a telephonepick-up device.3.Please keep the microphone and/or tape recorderaway from possible loud-noise interference—electronic devices, the telephone on a desk, coffeecups or glasses that might be set on the sametable as the microphone, etc.An important word or phrase can be lost with the interference of oneloud noise.4.Interviewers:Try to induce slower, more distinctspeech by speaking calmly yourself.Try asking
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