Aalborg Summer School
Qualitative Research Methods and Data Analysis
Aalborg 23.8.-26.8. 2011
’The Qualitative Continuum Revisited’
Søren Kristiansen & Michael Hviid Jacobsen
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The Qualitative Continuum Revisited (part one): Data and
theory links in qualitative research
Various traditions; grounded theory, analytic induction,
extended case method, recontextualising method
Differences and similarities, strengths and weaknesess
Implications in relation to qualitative research
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The Qualitative Continuum 1.0.
Grounded theory
case method
- theory
+ theory
+ data
- data
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Grounded theory
A qualitative analysis and research strategy developed by Barney
Glaser and Anselm Strauss in the 1960’s. Involves procedures for data
sampling, conceptual saturation, distinctions between substantive
theory and formal theory. General advice: Keep theory and research
literature out of preliminary data sampling and analysis.
The majority of GT-studies, however, adopts only selected elements
from this approach. GT-studies typically generates theory/concepts from
the data by way of relatively open coding strategies succeeded by code
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Basic grounded theory concepts
Theoretical saturation: is achieved when unexpected findings which may
undermine the emerging theory no longer occurs. Difficult to determine
when saturation is achieved, must be decided contextually by the
Theoretical sampling: the on-going collection of data material guided
the categories that appear unsaturated. Sampling is thus not performed
any pre-given systematics but strategically and specifically directed
improving the emerging theory and its categories by the refining
dimensions and properties
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Main contours of a GT-inspired analysis
Categories or themes is generated directly from the data (in vivo
or open coding) and chunks of data are categorized. Coded
chunks of data is explored and compared. Preliminary and
relatively unrestrained coding, that is: identification of categories
and their properties and dimensions. Labeling/conceptualization
is important.
Axial coding: the categories are refined and related to each
other. More systematic stage with focus on developing and
refine code-hierarchies with categories and sub categories (by
way of collapsing, splitting, eliminating codes).
Development of a theory regarding a central theme of analysis.
The selected theme is related systematically to the other themes
(selective coding). Categories are thus linked and the theory is
’grounded’ in data.
Glaser, B. & Strauss (1967): The Discovery of Grounded Theory. Chicago: Aldine/Gibbs, G. (2002):
Qualitative Data Analysis. Buckingham: Open University Press/Roberts, K.A. & Wilson, R.W. (2002):ICT
and and the Research Process. Forum: Qualitative Social Research, vol. 3. No. 2.
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Grounded theory in practice
KathyCharmaz (1980): The Social Reality of Death
Identificed various types (categories) of approaches to the professional work with terminal
patients among American hospital nurses
Attempts to minimize effect of death on the daily routines and life in
general by ignoring it or reframing it
Hide away:
Shielding and isolation of death and the dying, making it unperceptible and
undisturbing to others
Demontrative identification with the terminal patients and their relatives,
confrontation and embracement of life’s end
Accept of the death as an inevitable part of life and a ’natural’ approach to
the fact that people in fact dies.
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Time – short/long
Staff strategies
for handling
death on a
hospital ward
Hide Away
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Advantages of grounded theory:
 Requires close contact with the field under study
 Enables a creative and flexible research proces
 Stimulates valid relations between ‘first’ and ‘second order’ concepts
Challenges of grounded theory :
 ‘No- end’ frustrations. Difficult to determine the end point of thery
development, when is the theory saturated?
 Difficult to avoid early impact from previously absorbed theoretical
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Analytic induction
Development of theory ”bottom-up” – contrast to defining terms in
advance of research
Theory development as continuous effort of matching emergent
theory and empirical material.
Starts with a preliminary narrative/hypothesis which describes the
field under study, then the researcher looks for (negative) cases that
challenge the preliminary conceptual structure.
By confronting the preliminary narrative/hypothesis with negative
cases, the categories in the narrative is modified until the observed
cases match the narrative/the explanation. Often focus on
temporality, careers
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Analytic induction in practice
Becker, H. (1953): Becoming a Marihuanna User. American Journal of Sociology, 59
(3), 235-242
Point of departure: Traditional multi-variable analysis assumes that all the
factors which operate to produce the phenomenon under study operate
simultaneously. Becker’s critique: All causes do not operate at the same
time and do have different impacts in different stages of people’s lives.
We need, then ”a model that takes into account the fact that patterns of
behavior develop in orderly sequence” of stages/changes (the career
Qualitative interview material (50 interviews) in order to develop a general
statement of the sequence of stages which always occurred when
individuals become willing and capable of using marihuana for pleasure
Final theory: An individual will be able to use marihuana when he (1)
learns to smoke it in a way that produce real effects, (2) learns to
recognize the effects and connect them with drug use and (3) learns to
enjoy the sensations he percieves.
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Analytic induction in practice
Michael Flaherty (2003): Time Work: Customizing Temporal Experience.
Social Psychology Quarterly, 66, 17-33
Focus: How people create or manipulates various temporal experiences.
Large qualitative interview material focussing on how people attempt to
manipulate the experience of time.
Initial reading produced a set of themes and variations. Each new interview
was analyzed in terms of match (or lack of match) with already formed
categories. Negative cases resulted in reformulation of preliminary
categories. End product: A classificatory scheme covering the entire
empirical material.
Theory: People practice time work through attempts to manipulate: duration
(i.e. to make situation last longer/shorter), frequency (i.e. to make
something happen more often/seldom), sequence (i.e. to make something
happen in a certain order), timing (when something is happening)…
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Extended case method (ECM)
Initiated by British antropologists in the 1960 and developed further
by Michael Burawoy
Point of departure: Narratives are already theoretical (because
people strive for finality and orderliness) before the researcher
enters the scene, therefore research should start with theory, move
to the field and then back to theory
The case under study is formed from the ’outside’ that is through
theoretical framing – in contrast to GT where the case is formed by
ethno-narratives (people’s lived experience). Without a theory that
states the kind of empirical observations that ought to be, the
chosen setting loses it’s contours as a critical case. Focus is on
phenomena that challenges theory.
Extended case method: The case is used to say something about
underlying structural relations by way of theory. Aim: to develop or
extend existing macro-level theory
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Extended case method in practice
Michael Burawoy (1979): Manufacturing Consent: Changes in the Labor
Process under Monopoly Captalism. Chicago: University of Chicago Press
Ethnographic study in large engineering factory. Focus: the ways in which
the workers (in contrast with their objective interests) engage in labor
(consent to labor) and how capitalist macro-forces affect the work situation
Point of departure: Gramsci’s neomarxist theory of hegemony
Observation: Workers shift between (1) working hard on attractive and
‘easy’ deals and (2) reduce their engagement on ‘stinker jobs’. Leads to
development of Gramscis theory: By allowing workers to ‘take advantage’ of
the system in the micro-level, management prevents that workers organize
themselves against management interests.
Factory-work is situated in a overall macro-sociological context (i.e.
structural changes in the US labor market).
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Advantages of ECM:
 The explanation of exeptions/deviant cases adds complexity to the
analysis which might be overlooked in studies searching for
similarities across different contexts
 Integrates the agency and micro-world of agents witt the impact from
external macro-structures. Focus on how actors are determined by
but also act upon (oppressing) structures.
 Builds on existing theory (making good theories better instead of
inventing everything from scratch)
Challenges of ECM:
 New insights is produced within the frameworks of á priori
categories – limits to scientific progress?
 Distanced narratives tend to neglect people’s first-hand experiences,
aristocrat ethnography or ‘theory singing’
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Recontextualizing method
The organisation of a (new) empirical field in accordance with the
principles of a known model or theory – a new context for a known
Progressive development of understanding by way of mirroing of
empirical material in the new model. The application of’new’ frames
of interpretation in the exploration of layers of meaning
Creative abduction: The perception of a phenomenon from a new
framework. The framework organizes data in a new way which leads
to recognition of neglected meanings in the empirical material
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Recontextualizing method in practice
Goffman, E. (1959): The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.
New York: Doubleday
Point of departure: The understanding of people’s role-behavior and
ongoing formation of social structures can be facilitated by percieving them
as actors on a stage. Focus on people’s faces, masks and performances.
Inspiration from Burke & Bateson, extends with concepts like scene (the
social situation in which interaction takes place), audience (those who
percieve without taking part), manuscripts (the communication that flows
among actors), regions (the front- and backstage of actor’s role-behavior)
Various kinds of empirical illustrations, i.e. dating behavior, literature,
etiquette manuals
Result: Identification of ground rules: We try to control the impression we
make on others, to stage a certain ‘self’ and to make interaction smooth and
Although social behavior seem spontaneous, it is socially patterned and by
our role-behavior we participate in the on-going reconstruction of the social
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Recontexualizing method in practice
Torben Berg Sørensen (1995): Den sociale samtale.
Microsociological (conversation analysis) study of meetings of clients and
social workers. The meeting conceptualized by Goffman’s ritual metaphor.
Social workers assume a respecful strive for equality and present
themselves as less powerfull than they are, they perform ‘self-reducement’
and equals out distance to clients. Execution of power and decision-making
is accompanied by ‘healing-rituals which displays the client-professionalrelation as one of equality.
Equality-styled conversation. The artificially produced equality promotes a
certain style of conversation (on economic and material matters) which
makes little room for the client’s most prominent problems (emotional
matters in relation to social events such as divorce, lost jobs etc)
By way of the metaphor (interaction as ritualized care) an understanding of
the structuring of the conversation and possible and impossible themes (in
the articificially produced relation of equality) is facilitated.
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Boiled down to two main tracks
Teory-driven fieldwork and analysis
Data-driven fieldwork and analysis
Definition of case/phenomenon by way Understanding of case/phenomenon
of theory
as a specific empirical thing present in
the world and observable in the
narratives of the field
Re-development of general theory by
use of empirical examles. Theory
Formulation of specific theory on the
basis of empirical cases (cross
How ’invisible’ historical-structural
forces’ on the macro-level affect
people’s life and behavior
What people, located in specific times
and spaces, do with each other
The effect of social laws (objectivism).
People’s life-world experiences
Theory known in advance
Theory is formed and developed in
accordance with the ethno-narratives
experienced by the researcher
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…and how their proponents tend to see
each other
”Often this takes the form of a researcher’s finding ‘problems’ through a debate
within the academy, through ‘theoretical considerations’, and thus justifying
overriding evidence that the people studied do not define their situation as
problematic or that they define their situation as problematic in ways the
researcher ignores […] This posture inevitably leads to an assertion of false
consciousness made from a position of presumptive superiority: what the
people studied define as their reality itself is a product of powers they fail to
appreciate” (Katz, 2004:288)
The ordering of the social world is always theoretical. To claim that the
narrative of the field emerges inductively from the field alone is nothing but an
epistemological ‘fairy tale’ (Wacquant 2002:1481).
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Some ground rules
Define the problem/theme precisely
Watch out for over-emphasizing one single explanation
Find explanations on the problem/phenomenon in data (and thus not
only in theory)
Let actors appear
Recognize the context of the problem/phenomenon(temporal,
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Standardslides - Aalborg Universitet