Answers to Exercises in the Book

8.2 Preparing your data

Group – In pairs, prepare a list of issues you need to consider when preparing qualitative data for analysis. Discuss how you would organize your data (chronologically, thematically, by type of data etc.) and how you would label them.

Data preparation usually addresses the following concerns:

1.   Are my data stored in a way that is safe, secure and in line with the current data protection laws and protocols? Do I have sufficient backups? While these questions might appear so obvious that they needn’t even be stated, experience has shown that in the excitement of conducting research they can easily be overlooked.

2.   Are my data stored in a way that makes it easy for me to find individual files when I need them? It can take hours to organize data in a coherent way. However, even more time can be saved by developing a consistent system for labelling files and folders. For example, a short file name like O1_P2_140212_I2T can reveal that the file labelled in this way is the transcript (T) of the second Interview (I2) with person 2 (P2) in organization 1 (O1) which took place on 12 February 2014 (120212). Having all your data labelled in this way and organized in folders (whether these are structured around types of data or organizations/persons) allows for a more systematic and often a more enjoyable experience when you come to analyse your data. Make sure that you create a spreadsheet that provides you with an overview of all of your data and indicates how you have labelled them, and where they are stored.

3.   Are my data stored in a format that facilitates the analysis? Depending on the type of data and on the methods used to analyse them (e.g. software package), some data might have to be converted into a different format (e.g. mp3), transcribed (e.g. audiotaped interviews) or require formatting (e.g. header with data/time, page and line numbers, margins for coding etc.). Some researchers anonymize their data at this stage, others leave it to later in the research process. Whenever you anonymize data make sure that you keep the list that identifies each of the anonymized participants/organizations in a safe place (i.e. in line with data protection guidelines).

Individual/Group – Compare the use of a contact summary form to the Systematic and Reflexive Interviewing and Reporting (SRIR) method introduced by Nicholas Loubere in Chapter 6. What are the similarities, what are the differences?

The SRIR method is a method for conducting and recording interviews, which is based on a participatory approach. It is particularly useful when conducting multilingual qualitative research with a team of researchers and assistants. It aims at a high degree of reflexivity as researchers engage in reflexive dialogue, and jointly write interview and analysis reports. In contrast, a contact summary form is a simple technique for recording fieldwork and interviews. It offers a fairly structured way of recording fieldwork activities and can be used to complement (or instead of) verbatim recordings and transcription. Templates like the one illustrated in Figure 8.1 are particularly useful for structured interviews that aim at the collection of certain bits of information but – like a survey – are less concerned with how this information is presented of what it means to the interviewee. Like the SRIR method, contact summary forms can speed up data collection to a degree (transcriptions can take a long time to complete), but they also involve the reduction of certain nuances of expression as they do not record an interview word-by-word. Researchers record their interpretation of what a contact has communicated to them, and they focus on what they deem to be important to their research. This indicates a trade-off as on the one hand the technique is more efficient in the sense that the researcher focusses on what is needed (structuration of data early on in the research process) on the other hand this structuration narrows down what a later analysis can achieve. In the case of the SRIR method, the use of a record does not aim at reducing complexity but at enabling the involvement of researchers as well as of local assistants and informants in the analytic process. Such approach is particularly useful in research across cultural and language barriers where researchers may understand and interpret what was being said in an interview in way that is quite different from what was meant by the interviewee. Here, a record is not used to focus on what is important to the researcher but to explore what might be important to the interviewee but could be overlooked by the researcher.

8.3 Exploring content analysis

Group – It has been argued that content analysis can be a qualitative, theory-building – as well as quantitative, theory-testing – approach. Why is this so? Discuss the criteria that determine whether content analysis is used in a qualitative or quantitative way.

Quantitative content analysis can involve the application of predetermined categories and codes. Such analysis aims at illustrating and extending existing theorising by testing and adapting categories/codes that derived from previous research and theorising. Therefore, quantitative content analysis benefits from software solutions for the auto-coding of text software solutions such as ‘Leximancer’, which can also be used to quantify patterns in communication in a replicable and systematic manner. Such quantitative but data-driven approaches lend themselves for the creation of categories derived from the frequency list of words. Qualitative content analysis can involve the application and incremental revision of some preliminary analytic framework but it is more about the theory creation through the interpretative analysis of text rather than the testing of hypotheses. Codes and categories are not primarily linked to the frequency of certain words or phrases but are analysed with a view to their perceived meaning, intentionality and implications. Such analysis is difficult if not impossible to conduct using auto-coding software even if some may argue that advances in use of Artificial Intelligence will soon change that. For the time being, however, qualitative content analysis is closer to thematic analysis in that in involved manual or computer-assisted coding of data and the analysis of codes, categories and/or themes.

8.4 Coding and MEMO-writing

Interactive – Discuss what kind of information should be included in a code book and how it should be organized.

Codebooks provide a structured overview of the codes developed for a particular project or analysis. Codebooks improve consistency in the coding, in particular when multiple researchers work on the same project. Depending on the research design, codebooks listing pre-determined codes can be used to index data and they can also guide the analysis. However, most qualitative approaches involve the incremental development of a codebook, which then traces the development of the analysis. Without a codebook, researchers can easily get lost in their analysis as codes begin to accumulate. By making researchers think more about their codes, and the relationships between their codes, the creation of a codebook can enhance the analytic process. Codebooks are often presented as tables which include the following information: the label of the code, a brief definition, guidelines for when (not) to use the code, a few examples, and, in the case of more important codes, more detailed memos on the development and meaning of this code. Codebooks are usually organized around themes or types of codes. For example, there might be a section on codes for different kinds of respondents or organizations, another for codes labelling different activities or viewpoints. For more elaborate projects it can be useful to create a codebook using a database management program such as Access. This facilitates the production of different versions of the codebook and can be useful as you might want to organize your codes in different ways. Some database formats can then be imported into qualitative data analysis software packages.

8.5 Exploring template analysis

Individual – Download and read Wyatt and Silvester’s article. Make a list of all the steps of the research process (however small or banal) they mention. Why do they emphasise the importance of reflexivity?

Wyatt and Silvester emphasise the importance of reflexivity when developing templates to cultural or ideological bias. By constantly questioning and scrutinizing coding decisions, and having colleagues code sections of text, the researchers sought to enhance the rigour of the analytic procedure.

Group – Discuss the following questions as a class:

  • What kind of themes did Wyatt and Silvester use? Where they all derived from the data?

The themes were predominantly derived from the data but in contrast to most Grounded Theory approaches, template analysis also allows for existing research findings to be used as a starting point for developing an initial template and a priori codes.


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