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Research II: Qualitative Data Analysis

Research II: Qualitative Data Analysis

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Research II: Qualitative Data AnalysisCollect some data using one or more qualitative methods, for example semi-structured interviewing, participant observation, or discourse analysis. Analysethe data you have collected,demonstrating how you established coding rules,and developed categories and themes. What have you learned about dataanalysis in this exercise?
Coding edonis interviews using a Grounded Theory approach
The edonis project began during October 2009, when over one hundred learningprofessionals choseto take part in my EdD research. Participants had beenapproached directly by myself or had found out about it through the ‘blogging’and ‘tweeting’ around the project of those who had signed-up early. During thefirst audio and textual communiqués from me(Noble, 2008), I stated that myresearch would be mostly qualitative, and that the main methods of datacollection would bemonthly online surveys for one year, using a mixture of openand closed questions and comment boxes;and semi-structured interviews, mostof which would be conducted using Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP).Participants were informed that:this was an iterative study, with a regularlyupdated research question; that an online community of practice had beencreated around the study withfortnightly, publicly-available edited researchinterviews (Noble,2009); and that the theories generatedwould not begeneralisable to the population. Of significance, I mentioned that I intended forthe project to continue beyond the three-year commitment which I was asking forfrom those who signed-up. This open-endedness would later influence myselection of Grounded Theory.Between November 2008 and August 2009, I issued eight monthlyonlinesurveys and recorded twenty-nine interviews with edonis participants. My plan,while carrying out researchalongside the taught phase of my EdD,had been toanalysethe data collected during these ten months from November 2009 to April
 
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2010. I would then take the focused-upon categories and concepts, andtheoretical codes and statements, to a further twenty-one interviewees andseveral online focus spaces. However, aside from being ignorant ofmethodology at this point and having constructed a research question which was“enough to fill seven or eight theses”, I was receiving too much data for a soleEdD researcher to handle(Appendix A). I recognised that, although in terms ofresponse rates my questions and prompts were ofinterest to most participants,the structure of my surveys and broadinterview areas was due to my interest instudying ‘professional development’, the ‘social web’, and ‘personal learningnetworks’. These are social constructions, extensively written about, which pre-date the edonis project. I considered that around sixty people have continued totake part during the first year of the project, and that many of these are learningprofessionals who frequentlycommunicateonlinefor professional purposes, orwhose practices andstances are known by people around the United Kingdomand elsewheredue to them having an online presence. Additionally, thecommunication, collaborationand learning tools and spaces which many actthrough, appear to be continually developing, and I decided to use amethodology which would enable me to construct, with the data from the edonisproject, substantive theories which wouldbe new, thoughalways uncertain andunfinished.Strauss and Corbin (1998:5) refer to these as being,“qualifiable,modifiable and open,in part,to negotiation”; reflecting the ontological positionthat the social world is constructed; and primarily so through action andinteraction. However, to “continually construct, defend, repair and chang(e)social realities” (Silverman, 2007:38), I would eventually need to be able to juxtapose the data emerging from similar contexts of participants, with other partsof the social world, and would need to alter my approach to interviewingto onewhich ensured the possibility of unexpected data (Silverman, 2007), andwhichsupported the narrowing of my focus.For deep engagement with the data, I selected a Grounded Theory methodology(Glaser and Strauss, 1967). This, I hoped, would enable me to analyse data
 
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using constant comparative methods(Glaser and Strauss, 1967). I might be ableto keep my research relevantthrough the ongoing relationship and sharedexperiences betweenmyselfand the project participants. At this stage,itbecame evidentthat I would need to build a process to show how the“action/interaction evolves” (Strauss and Corbin, 1998:179), ensuring that theorywould be open to “fresh … and … novel concepts and categories” (Charmaz,2006:24). The process consistsof, “a series of evolving sequences ofaction/interactionthat occur over time and space, changing or sometimesremaining the same in response to the situation or context.” (Strauss and Corbin,1998:165)Grounded theory is a “research strategy whose purpose is to generate theoryfrom data” (Punch and Wildy, 1995:2). It was establishedby Glaser and Strauss(1967) and its progress has been contested and shaped by each, with writers likeCharmaz (2002) and Bryant (2002) showing how its abstractedness can lead topositivistic assumptions, and who aimed to reconstructit as humanistic.Charmaz (2006:7) recognised that, latterly, “Strauss brought notions of humanagency, emergent processes, social and subjective means, problem solvingpractices and the open-ended study of action to Grounded Theory”. This tensionisrelevant to me in that I am researching with, rather than on, participants,thereforemy closeness to some necessitates self-reflection and actionto ensurevalidity. I do not engage further with such tensions in this paper, as there isgeneral agreementthat all Grounded Theory processes should include, forexample, memo writing and coding, and this is my stage and focus here. Straussand Corbin (1998:110) define a memo as “(t)he researchers record of analysis,thoughts, interpretations, questions and directions for further data collection.”Memo-writing, personal and informal,was, for me,the most important part of theprocess following data collection.Grounded Theory allows you to view the world in a certain way, by “studyingsocial reality” (Charmaz, 2006:69). I came to recognise that, through my

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