Qualitative research analysis is vital as qualitative data collection. Far more significantly, it requires nuance. Conceptualizing and organizing a study is no walk in the park, sure, but doing so typically requires pragmatism. Qualitative research analysis, meanwhile, also includes a hefty portion of interpretation. Substantiating these interpretations is vital too, of course. Unto itself, doing so requires narrative buildup and cohesive logic. While not ideal for each and every study, there is a template that analyzers typically expect.
Learn Your Data
Close familiarity with data significantly helps along overall progress. Read or watch over all pertinent information, then do so again. Interpretations are crucial, so also make sure to write down whatever ideas you have when going through the data. Stay critical during review. Information can be pertinent, but quality is another story. Perhaps the best way to appraise importance is writing about the limitations of each example.
Focus on the Analysis
Identify key questions that the data can answer. Of course, these initial ideas can change with further analysis. All depends on how the researcher processes the data. Focus is the essential facet. There are plenty of areas to evaluate, including topics, time periods, or events pertaining to the product. Additionally, pay attention to who are giving the answers: an organization, individual, or group.
Start categorizing data after creating questions and linking them to the primary source. Doing so can become complex, sure, but unless a hybrid study there is little reason to crunch numbers. Instead, research must work to identify common elements within the collection of data. Themes and patterns are typically the most effective, and can encompass just about anything: behaviors, ideas, interactions, incidents, and concepts.
From there, start organizing each into coherent categories. These should create a better macro-level understanding of the data. The very act of creating categories, however, ensures that researchers will have to go through the nitty-gritty.
Next, researchers should arrange the categories to identify patterns and other connections. Theme is incredibly important, as is participant origin and the stimulus they saw. Other categories, of course, also matter a great deal. One real necessity is distinguishing between each category’s size, significance, and precedent. Venn diagrams can help significantly when arranging such hierarchies.
Researchers should also do their utmost to pinpoint relative importance and relationships. Hardly rocket science, most studies only require a tallying of responses or other characteristics. Significance is very important, so make sure to take the time find which themes weigh-in the most. These can be regular categories or subcategories: just be specific about where they fit within the whole.
Aside from gauging significance, researchers should also look into how categories relate. This typically covers the why of data. Also go through earlier interpretations and try to validate them through the current data. True legitimacy only arrives at criticism, however, and particularly in qualitative research analysis. Always make sure to check for countervailing points and alternative explanations.
Interpret the Total
Interpreting data is one thing, doing the same to an entire study is quite different. One essential guide are narrative formats. This not only enables researcher and reader to easily follow the study’s logic, but also structure the research itself. A list of important points is a good place to start. How to gauge “importance,” however, can be a conundrum. The newness of data is typically significant, as are findings’ applications- think other studies, new initiatives, or findings that challenge precedent. Like when categorizing, visuals are also a great help. Venn diagrams, bar graphs, and other elements can make all the difference.
Zach Simmons is the Founder and president of Discuss.io. Zach has 20 years of experience building software. Prior to founding Discuss.io, he was the Technical Product Manager for Amazon Web Services (S3) where he ran the team that built the infrastructure that now powers a significant percentage of the modern Internet. Zach holds an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.
An entrepreneurial leader, Zach is passionate about building disruptive and agile SaaS based market research startups as an alternative to traditional market research. Seeing a need for change within the Industry, Zach launched Discuss.io, bringing Market Research to the digital age.