Strategies of Interpreting Data in a Qualitative Research

Analyzing qualitative data is an eclectic process. There is no single, accepted approach. It involves a simultaneous process while you are also collecting data and the phases are also iterative.

Strategies of interpreting data in a qualitative research.

In interpreting qualitative research data the idea is to examine the meaningful and symbolic content within it. This can be done using a deductive (use questions to group data) or inductive approach (look for relationships within the data).

Analyzing qualitative data is an eclectic process. There is no single, accepted approach. It involves a simultaneous process while you are also collecting data and the phases are also iterative.

The first step involves organizing and transcribing the data. The collected data should be properly managed so that there is no loss of any manner.

The second step involves exploring and coding the data. Coding is the process of segmenting and labeling text to form descriptions and broad themes in the data. This is an inductive process of narrowing data into a few themes.

The third step involves building descriptions and themes. Description is a detailed rendering of people, places or events in a setting in qualitative research. It is easiest to start the analysis after the initial reading and coding of the data.

Themes could be of the following types:
1. Ordinary themes: themes a researcher expects to find.
2. Unexpected themes: themes that are a surprise and were not expected
3. Hard-to-classify themes: themes that contain ideas that do not easily fit into one theme or that overlap with several themes.
4. Major and minor themes: themes that represent the major ideas and the minor, secondary ideas in a database.

The next step involves reporting and representing findings. The data can be represented in the form of:
1. Matrices (including demographic tables)
2. Narratives (including dialogues)
3. Flow charts

The next step is the interpretation of findings. Interpretation in qualitative research means that the researcher steps back and forms some larger meaning about the phenomenon based on personal views, comparisons with past studies, or both. This involves the following steps:
1. Summarize findings: general recap of the major findings
2. Convey personal reflections: personal reflections about the meaning of the data
3. Make comparisons to the literature: compare qualitative findings with the literature, or combine personal views with (psychological) concepts or ideas.
4. Offer limitations and suggestions for future research: suggest possible limitations or weaknesses of the study and make recommendations for future research.

The final step is to validate the accuracy of the findings. The researcher determines the accuracy or credibility of the findings through the following strategies:
1. Triangulation
2. Member checking
3. External audit

* * *

Interpreting the data is a critical component of any research project. It can be approached in two ways – the deductive approach where use the data to answer your questions or inductive approach where you look for patterns and relationships within data. The process followed has six steps viz. organizing and transcribing the data, exploring and coding the data, building descriptions and themes, reporting and representing findings, interpretation of findings and to validate the accuracy of the findings.


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March 1, 2024 at 6:22 PM
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