Qualitative data analysis methods

Qualitative research is more complex than quantitative research. It’s not about numbers, it’s about words, pictures or observations.
Neringa Kalpokas
Director, Training & Partnership Development
  1. What is your research question?
  2. Content Analysis
  3. Narrative Analysis
  4. Grounded Theory
  5. Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA)
  6. Análisis del Discurso
  7. Thematic analysis

What is your research question?

Maybe, your research question is, how to inspire female students to sign in to tech-courses. You probably read existing case studies and you might discuss the topic in focus groups or surveys with open-ended questions. There are several ways to research data collection. The raw data needs to be transcripted. You can develop a framework and code your data set f.e. “ideas” or “gender”. You can find patterns and connections. Are there common answers to specific questions? Of course, you can combine quantitative data collection methods.

Content Analysis

Content Analysis is a structured, qualitative method for evaluating data. It’s often used to analyze interviews. Content Analysis refers to the process of categorizing verbal or behavioral data to classify, summarize and tabulate. It could be very time-consuming.

Narrative Analysis

In the narrative analysis method, the researcher reviews what was said by the interviewee and restates it in context. One analyzes the structure of the narrative, the argumentation and the description. It’s all about listening and understanding. Thanks to the narrative interview, it is possible to draw conclusions about the interviewees’ life events in their temporal contexts. It is hard to reproduce. Also, observations or surveys could be analyzed that way.

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory is a research approach. It is not a single theory, but a methodology for finding one. The starting point is a set of data, the analysis of which suggests the nature and direction of further data to be collected. Grounded theory aims to formulate a new theory by analyzing interviews, observations and other empirical data. In this process, data collection and analysis alternate until new analysis yields no new knowledge.

The basic interest of knowledge is not the reconstruction of subjective views, but to make the underlying (social) phenomena visible.

Figure 1: Getting started with your Qualitative Data Analysis

Interpretive phenomenological analysis (IPA)

Interpretive phenomenological analysis is an approach to psychological qualitative research with an ideographic focus. IPA is applied to found autobiographical texts like diaries or letters, as well as to documents generated in the research process like biographical interviews.

Discourse Analysis

Discourse is a fancy word for written or spoken language. Discourse analysis is a method for analyzing naturally occurring conversations and different types of written texts in social, political or historical context. A discourse is basically a consensus on a statement or summary of a certain topic. The textual content can come from movies, news, literature songs, or even songs for example.

Thematic analysis

Thematic Analysis is defined as a method for identifying, analyzing and documenting themes in a data set. You identify patterns in meaning across the data. You can involve research participants in the analysis process. It’s about Identification of leitmotifs in psychology. You can analyze hotel-reviews with a thematic analysis too. Maybe research questions change during thematic analysis.

There are great tools to help you get things done. If you need help analyzing qualitative data, no matter how your data is collected: Try ATLAS.ti for electronic support for each research method.