Whether you are planning for academic research or searching for a good policy for a business, data gives you the power to do so. The whole research process revolves around the collection or analysis of data. When we conduct research, the foremost important thing is to select the correct data collection method. Then it comes to finding the ways to process or analyze the collected data. Qualitative or quantitative data cannot be collected or analyzed by using a single method. For analyzing qualitative data, a researcher must pick any suitable method from pre-define qualitative data analysis methods. This article aims to sum up the qualitative data analysis process in seven simple steps. So everyone can easily organize or sort data to get meaningful insights.

What Does The Qualitative Data Reflect For Researchers?

Qualitative data is the ones that come in piles having opinions, experiences, or views. In short, any data that contains information in the form of word, sentences, or textual form is considered qualitative data. This type of data has its own set of associated merits and demerits. Qualitative data is usually collected by conducting surveys/interviews/ case studies, arranging focus groups, recording audio or videos, or using direct observations.

Analyzing qualitative data is a bit more difficult than analyzing quantitative data due to several reasons. Two of them are.

  1. These days numbers of statistical tools are available that analyze quantitative data within no time. While only a few tools can help in analyzing qualitative data.
  2. Qualitative data is deep than quantitative data, and one sentence may have several meanings. So judging the exact meaning becomes challenging sometimes.

Thus, to simplify the analyzing qualitative data process, a researcher, especially a novice one, should follow a step-by-step strategy as describe below.

Collecting Qualitative Data:

Data analysis of either qualitative or quantitative data must start after collecting it. However, for collecting good quality qualitative method, one should use the most suitable data collection methods as per research aims and objectives. The most suitable methods for collecting qualitative data include questionnaires, case studies, interviews, or literature reviews. Generally, data collection is an easy process. But sometimes it becomes awful when you have to collect data from various sources by combining more than one method of collection. 

Editing Material For Data Analysis:

Once you collect the data that seems perfect to give you valuable insights, the next process must be to edit or arrange it. This step is essential for analyzing qualitative data because qualitative is usually obtained in scattered forms. Thus, it is important to arrange data to make it manageable before assigning codes in the next step. Data organization at this step only means organizing all information in one place to minimize the chances of missing any important chunk or piece of information from final interpretation. However, the data can be organized either manually or by using any sophisticated tool such as Excel or word.

Exploring Data Through Coding:

At this point, you will have all the information organized in one place, so you can easily assign codes to it. Coding is the process that helps researchers in labelling data in a way that they can later use to identify themes in it. To simplify the coding process in analyzing qualitative data, it is better to take small samples of data. In this way, you can think of better codes after observing the common patterns in the gathered feedback and responses. In the end, you can take large samples to review the codes more generally and systematically. Further, in simple words, in analyzing qualitative data, ‘to code’ means the act of identifying the words or phrases in order to categorize trends by meanings.

Using Codes For Making Themes Or Developing Descriptions:

Each different qualitative data set has one or more themes that give deeper meaning to the data. Furthermore, different categories may fall under one main overarching theme. Thus, the main goal of this step is to build over-arching themes in the data using the codes assigned in the previous section. Coding and making overarching themes from codes are the most critical steps in qualitative data analysis. Thus, a proper guide stating detailed coding procedures must be followed to find the most accurate results. For getting coding guides, students must feel free to search for guides using Google search Engine or contact dissertation help online.

Using Themes For Interpreting The Meanings Of The Findings:

Steps # 3 and 4 are very useful for finding insights by identifying themes and deciding codes. Following both steps, one will have enough information to develop meaningful insights. Thus, step#5 aims to use all information provided by building themes and assigning codes. So that it is easy to draw meaningful correlations between different words and phrases. It will help you to reach a certain conclusion.

Reporting Results:

Reporting what an analysis reflects you is the common step in qualitative or quantitative data analysis. It is the process of communicating the findings of a search that seems sensible to the target audience. In qualitative data analysis, results merely focus on answering the research questions that are formulated at the start of the research.

Validating Results:

The last step in qualitative data analysis is to validate the results. Validity of results simply refers to the measure of trustworthiness of interpretation or conclusion. It can be done by measuring degree of respondents’ bias. Additionally, in results validation, consistency of meaning is another factor that helps readers to trust the insights of qualitative research.

Final Thoughts:

All in all, qualitative data analysis is a multi-stepped process. Data analysts first have to organize /arrange and summarize data then use different coding and theming techniques to get insights. After interpreting the insights, the last steps in the qualitative analysis are to find validity and report the results. In dissertation writing, the result needs to be reported in the results section or chapter four of a dissertation. However, in other types of research, these findings can be reported by drafting final results reports. The common thing that is important to both types of qualitative results reporting is that it must give answers to research questions as precisely as possible.

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