Chapter 14: Qualitative Data Analysis
Most qualitative researchers want to summarize and generalize from their data.
This chapter presents some of the common practices on how researchers bring order to
their data. We will discuss grounded theories and the processing of qualitative data,
focusing on coding and memoing.
What is qualitative analysis?
The nonnumeric examination and interpretation of observations, for the purpose of discovering
underlying meanings and patterns of relationships. This is most typical, for example, of field
research and historical research. Qualitative data analysis is concerned with how you determine
what’s important to observe and how you formulate your analytical conclusions based on those
What is the goal of qualitative analysis?
A major goal in analysis of qualitative data is to reveal themes that emerge from the data. This
process is largely a search for patterns of similarities and differences followed by an
interpretation of those patterns.
Searching for Patterns
What is the pattern researchers are searching for?
1. Similarities: patterns of interaction and events that are general common
Ex: many people check for police officers before jaywalking.
2. Dissimilarities: deviation from the general ideas noted
Ex: Different people handle the problem of standing in a line for tickets at a movie
theatre differently. Some stare into space, some strike up conversations with strangers,
some talk to themselves, some keep counting their money, etc.
What are the 6 different ways of looking for patterns in the topic of your research?
Lofland et. Al gives the example of child abuse in a particular neighborhood:
1. Frequencies: How often does child abuse occur among families in the neighborhood
under study? We should be aware of the possible differences between actual frequencies
and what people are willing to tell us.
2. Magnitudes: what are the levels of abuse? How brutal are they?
3. Structures: what are the difference types of abuse: physical, mental, sexual? Are they
4. Processes: is there any order among the elements of structure? Do abusers begin with
mental abuse and move on to physical and sexual abuse, or does the order of elements
5. Causes: what are the causes of child abuse? Is it more common in particular social classes,
different religious or ethnic groups? Does it occur more often during good or bad times?
6. Consequences: how does child abuse affect he victims, in both the short and the long
term? What changes does it cause in the abusers? The Role of theory
What is Grounded Theory Method?
GTM is an inductive approach to research introduced by Glaser & Strauss in which theories are
generated from an examination of data, through the constant comparing of unfolding
observations. Most research projects are conducted without a priori theory in mind – the theory