Collecting and Analysing
Qualitative Data
After this session you will be able to:
• Describe some of the principles of qualitative
data analysis.
• Select appropriate qualitative analytical
methods, including grounded theory
• Apply qualitative methods to produce valid,
reliable and trustworthy data.
• Make use of the ‘voice’ of the researcher.
Qualitative analysis is (or should be) a rigorous
and logical process through which data
(usually words, but also photographs and
other visual media) are given meaning.
Qualitative researchers argue
• How data should be analysed.
• The extent to which data should be analysed
(should data be presented to ‘speak for
• The role of the researcher in the research
• The status and ‘undeniability’ (or otherwise) of
• Whether theory building is possible or desirable.
One approach: analytic
Steps in the coding process
Transcribe the
Focused reading
Secondary data analysis
• In-depth analysis of a
sub-set of the original
data, or
• Application of a new
perspective or
conceptual focus to
the data.
• Epistemological reflexivity:
researchers reflect on their
assumptions about the world
and about the nature of
• Personal reflexivity:
researchers reflect upon how
their personal values,
attitudes, beliefs and aims
have served to shape the
Approaches to analysis: content
criteria of
• Common
• Special
• Theoretical
Analyse data
• Summarize content
• Explicate content
• Structure content
Approaches to analysis:
grounded theory
Grounded theory:
• Does not begin with prior assumptions about
hypotheses, research questions or what
literature should underpin the study.
• But researchers will have a competent level of
knowledge about the area.
• Research commences with a defined purpose,
but also with the realization that this purpose
may become modified or even radically altered
during the research process itself.
Grounded theory: open coding
• Ask the data a specific and consistent set of questions,
keeping in mind the original objectives of the research
• Analyse the data minutely, but also include as many
categories, examples and incidents as possible.
• Frequently interrupt the coding to write a theoretical
account. As the data are being coded, ideas or
theoretical perspectives may arise.
• Do not assume the analytical relevance of any traditional
variable such as age, gender, social class, etc. until its
relevance emerges from the data.
Grounded theory: axial coding
This means specifying:
• A category (phenomenon) in terms of the
conditions that helped to give rise to it.
• The context in which it arises.
• The actions and interactions that stem
from it.
• Its consequences.
Grounded theory: axial coding
Grounded theory: axial coding
Grounded theory: selective
Through selective coding, core categories are
sought through which a ‘story’ can be told. This
process involves:
• Finding a story line formulated around core
• Relating sub-categories to the core categories.
• Validating these relationships against the data.
• Filling in categories that need further refinement.
Grounded theory: selective
Grounded theory: theoretical
Theoretical sensitivity is: the ability to give meaning to data,
the capacity to understand, and [the] capability to
separate the pertinent from that which isn’t. (Strauss and
Corbin, 1998: 42). Achieved through:
• The literature, which helps highlight issues and what
might be important and unimportant.
• The professional experience of the researcher, showing
what is important in the field of research chosen, and
how things work, allowing events to be more clearly
understood and interpreted.
• Personal experience, including experience in research,
which can facilitate the making of comparisons.
• The analytical process itself, which can provide insights
into the meaning of the data.
Validity in qualitative analysis
Type of technique
Member checking.
Expert checking.
Exploring rival explanations.
Writing memos.
Testing hypotheses in data analysis.
Analysing negative cases.
Performing a literature review.
Providing an audit trail.
Providing evidence that supports
Acknowledging the researcher
Providing thick descriptions.
Internal reliability is improved by the use of:
• Data gathering – more than one observer
in the field.
• Data analysis – multiple researchers for
interpretation of the findings.
The main focus of qualitative analysis is to understand the ways in
which people act and the accounts that people give for these actions.
Approaches to qualitative data analysis include content analysis and
grounded theory. Content analysis involves locating classes or
categories within the data. These categories are usually derived from
theoretical models. Grounded theory uses a process of open, axial and
selective coding to develop categories and theories inductively from the
Due to the lack of non-probability sampling methods, qualitative
analysis is open to accusations of invalidity. However, claims for the
validity of results can be strengthened, for example, by eliciting the
views of research participants.
The reliability of qualitative research can be strengthened by using
multiple cases, or by supporting assertions using numerous examples,
or by verifying the analysis using other researchers. Concepts such as
credibility, authenticity, honesty and openness are also important in
qualitative research.
CAQDAS programs provide useful functionality for qualitative data
coding and analysis. But before embarking on the process of learning a
program, make sure that the quantity of data requiring analysis justifies
the expenditure of time.

Analysing and Presenting Qualitative Data