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A Primer on Deductive Qualitative Analysis as Theory Testing & Theory Development

A Primer on Deductive Qualitative Analysis as Theory Testing & Theory Development

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Published by Jane Gilgun
Many people assume that researchers are not supposed to begin qualitative research with theory or to test theory qualitatively. Many, however, believe that believe that qualitative methods are useful for developing grounded theory.

This article contributes to on-going thinking about the role of theory in qualitative research and the role of qualitative research in theory building. The author shows that theory testing and further development are not only doable using qualitative case studies but are desirable. A helpful reading list ends this article.

This is the third issue of the periodical Issues in Qualitative Research.
Many people assume that researchers are not supposed to begin qualitative research with theory or to test theory qualitatively. Many, however, believe that believe that qualitative methods are useful for developing grounded theory.

This article contributes to on-going thinking about the role of theory in qualitative research and the role of qualitative research in theory building. The author shows that theory testing and further development are not only doable using qualitative case studies but are desirable. A helpful reading list ends this article.

This is the third issue of the periodical Issues in Qualitative Research.

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Published by: Jane Gilgun on Aug 14, 2010
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Current Issues in Qualitative Research, 1(3)Page 1 of 1
Current Issues in Qualitative Research
 An Occasional Publication for Field Researchers from a Variety of Disciplines
 _____________________________________________________________________________________________ 
Volume 1, Number 3 August 2010 _____________________________________________________________________________________ 
 A Primer on Deductive Qualitative Analysisas Theory Testing & Theory Development 
Jane F. GilgunUniversity of Minnesota, Twin Cities, USA
eductive qualitative analysis is qualitative research that begins with theory. Researchersmay test theory for the purpose of modifying it or use theory as sources of sensitizingconcepts that are the basis of their interview questions, their preliminary codes, and their theoretical sensitivity. Theoretical sensitivity means that researchers already have knowledge of theory, research, and personal experience that contribute to implicit or explicit sets of ideas thathelps them to notice certain things about their data and not notice others. These sets of ideas areconceptual frameworks. (See Glaser, 1978 for an extended discussion of theoretical sensitivity.)In this brief paper, I discuss the theory testing and theory development strategies of deductive qualitative analysis (DQA). In this form of DQA, researchers begin with a preliminarytheory. The initial theory can be composed of loosely formulated hunches based on personal or  professional experience, formal hypotheses, or a set of that is a model of how things work (Gilgun, 2010, 2007, 2005c). The theory is tested on a series of cases. When the theory does notfit cases, the theory is changed. DQA is an updating of analytic induction, a form of qualitativeinquiry that researchers at the University of Chicago, USA, developed in the early part of thetwentieth century.
 DQA and the Scientific Method.
Researchers test preliminary theory on particular cases. Many do “natural experiments”in that they observe phenomena that they do not control, typically because they want to observe behaviors in natural settings or because it would be unethical to perform some socialexperiments. Post-hoc studies of trauma are examples. Sometimes researchers manipulate theactions observed, such as when researchers drop a wallet on the ground and watch what passers- by do when the see it lying there. Thus, DQA follows a scientific method, one that involves proposing a theory, testing it, and then revising it based on results of the test (Popper, 1969).
About the author
 Jane F. Gilgun, Ph.D., LICSW, is a professor, School of Social Work, University of Minnesota, TwinCities, USA. Her articles, books, and children’s stories are available on Amazon Kindle, the Apple store,& scribd.com/professorjane for a variety of mobile devices. This article is revision of an appendix that appears in a book 
called On Being a Shit: Unkind Deeds & Cover-Ups in Everyday Life (Gilgun, 2009)
.This book shows how to use deductive qualitative analysis for testing & modifying theories usinqualitative case studies and is inspired by Professor Harry Frankfurt’s bestseller 
On Bullshit.
D
 
 
Current Issues in Qualitative Research, 1(3)Page 2 of 2
Another way to think about scientific method is the following. Science involvesobservation, the formulation of descriptions of what researchers see in their observations, and thetesting of these descriptions, which may be called hypotheses. Researchers may—and probablyshould--purposefully seeking evidence that undermines or at least refines hypotheses and that promotes the production of new hypotheses when those that are tested are found lacking. Indeed,the production of new, more useful hypotheses is a goal of science. Science buildsunderstandings based upon procedures of conjectures in the form of hypotheses, refutationthrough the process of testing hypotheses for their fit with observations, and reformulation whenthe hypotheses that are tested do not fit observations (Gilgun, 2005a; Popper, 1969).In DQA as in the scientific method in general, researchers consider the initial theory to be preliminary. The purpose of DQA is to come up with a better theory than researchers hadconstructed at the outset (Gilgun, 2005c, 2007; 2010).
The Terminology of DQA
The terminology of DQA can be confusing. Researchers refer to the initial theoreticalframework in various ways, such as a preliminary theory, an analytic framework, a theoreticalmodel, a preliminary model, and the initial or preliminary hypothesis or hypotheses.The final product of DQA also has more than one name, including tested and refinedtheory or model, the improved model, and the final model. Whatever terms researchers use,DQA is based on the idea that “final” theory is not final at all, but tentative and subject torevision when there is evidence to do so (Gilgun, 2005c, 2007, 2010).The term
hypothesis
can also be a confusing term in DQA. In the present context,hypotheses are statements of relationships among concepts. Any hypothesis is composed of atleast two concepts and a statement of the relationship between them, such as the hypothesis thatClever Foxes (a concept) know exactly what they are doing (a concept). Concepts in DQA servesensitizing purposes, meaning they help researchers see aspects of phenomena that might nototherwise have noticed.This is both their strength and weakness, strength precisely because they enlighten andthus serve as lenses with which to view the world. The sensitizing purposes of concepts alsorepresent weakness because they may blind researchers to other significant aspects of  phenomena (Blumer, 1954/1969). Thus researchers may only pay attention to data that supporttheir assumptions and ignore other important data. It is easy enough to find material that upholdsone’s assumptions, but this is not science.
Negative Case Analysis
Researchers avoid finding what they intend to find through the conscious search for evidence that contradicts their emerging findings. This requires a form of sampling callednegative case analysis, which involves the search for data that adds additional dimensions or even contradicts researchers’ emerging understandings. Negative case analysis fits well with theideas of conjectures, refutations, and reformulations (Gilgun, 2005c, 2007; 2010).Another way to think of sampling in deductive qualitative analysis is the idea of 
 
 
Current Issues in Qualitative Research, 1(3)Page 3 of 3
maximum variability, where researchers attempt to sample a wide variety of cases in order toarrive at a comprehensive theory. The sampling is purposeful in that researchers intentionallyselect cases that represent a wide variety of types. The result is a set of cases that arerepresentative of the many variations.It is likely that other variations not accounted for in the sample actually do exist. Thus,any theory based on DQA is flexible, intended to be modifiable if a new situation or case callsfor flexibility. Such are the challenges and pleasures of scientific endeavors.
DQA and Analytic Induction
Deductive qualitative analysis (DQA) is an updating of analytic induction (AI) which is aresearch method associated with the Chicago School of Sociology (Bulmer, 1984; Gilgun 2005c,2007, 2010). Like DQA, AI starts with a preliminary theory, tests the theories on cases, selectssample based on negative case analysis, and continual revises the theory according to whatresearchers find through their analysis of cases.Some researchers who used AI, stated that their findings were universal, meaning thatthey fit every case they investigated, not that they fit every specific instances of an entire class of  phenomena. Those who originated AI recognized that their “final” theories are in fact tentative,subject to revision when new evidence comes to light (Cressey, 1953).Analytic induction went through long period of disrepute because some methodologistsmisunderstood its premises. For instance, these methodologists thought by “universal,”researchers using AI meant that their findings were general laws, applicable across time, place,and persons (Gilgun, 2005c). In fact, as stated, those who used AI saw findings as subject torevision (Gilgun, 2007).Methodologists also misunderstood how to use the findings of AI. They correctly notedthat findings are not applicable to an entire population. Those who developed AI also recognizedthis and expected findings to be tested for their fit with new situations.Any findings from research, including findings based on true random samples cannot beassumed to fit any one individual, even someone who was part of the sample on which thefindings were developed. What is true for a group may not be true of individuals who composethat group. Assuming that group findings fit individual situations has a name: the ecologicalfallacy. Any finding, no many how derived, must be tested for fit in applied settings (Cronbach,1975).Analytic induction, like DQA, has as its purpose theory-building and cannot answer questions about distribution of qualities within a population, such as how many people will voteDemocratic, Republican, Green, Independent, otherwise, or not at all.Many of the ideas connected to AI are also part of DQA, but DQA elaborates upon manyof these ideas and adds new ones. For instance, those who have created AI gave scant attentionto the various types of initial hypotheses with which researchers begin their studies, nor do theydefine such terms as theory, model, and hypotheses. They provided little guidance as to how toincorporate previous research and theory into the development of the initial hypotheses and into

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