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Handbook of Qualitative Research

Handbook of Qualitative Research

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Published by Tonia Papadopoulou

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Published by: Tonia Papadopoulou on Dec 13, 2010
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 METHODS OF COLLECTING AND ANALYZING EMPIRICAL MATERIALS
Data Management and Analysis Methods
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DATAMANAGEMENTANDANALYSISMETHODS
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Gery W. Ryan and H. Russell Bernard
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Texts Are Us
Thischapterisaboutmethodsformanagingandanalyzing qualitative data. By
qualitative data
we mean text: newspapers, movies, sitcoms,e-mail traffic, folktales, life histories. We alsomean narratives—narratives about getting di-vorced, about being sick, about survivinghand-to-hand combat, about selling sex, abouttrying to quit smoking. In fact, most of the ar-chaeologically recoverable information abouthuman thought and human behavior is text, thegood stuff of social science.Scholarsincontentanalysisbeganusingcom-puters in the 1950s to do statistical analysis of texts (Pool, 1959), but recent advances in tech-nology are changing the economics of the socialsciences. Optical scanning today makes lightwork of converting written texts to ma-chine-readable form. Within a few years,voice-recognitionsoftwarewillmakelightworkof transcribing open-ended interviews. Thesetechnologies are blind to epistemological differ-ences. Interpretivists and positivists alike are us-ing these technologies for the analysis of texts,and will do so more and more.Like Tesch (1990), we distinguish betweenthe
linguistic tradition,
which treats text as anobject of analysis itself, and the
sociological tra-dition,
whichtreatstextasawindowintohumanexperience (see Figure 29.1). The linguistic tra-dition includes narrative analysis, conversation(or discourse) analysis, performance analysis,andformallinguisticanalysis.Methodsforanal-yses in this tradition are covered elsewhere inthis
Handbook.
We focus here on methods usedinthesociologicaltradition,whichwetaketoin-clude work across the social sciences.Therearetwokindsofwrittentextsintheso-ciological tradition: (a) words or phrases gener-ated by techniques for systematic elicitation and(b) free-flowing texts, such as narratives, dis-course, and responses to open-ended interview
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questions. In the next section, we describe somemethods for collecting and analyzing words orphrases. Techniques for data collection includefree lists, pile sorts, frame elicitations, and triadtests. Techniques for the analysis of these kindsof data include componential analysis, taxono-mies, and mental maps.We then turn to the analysis of free-flowingtexts. We look first at methods that use raw textas their input—methods such as key-words-in-context, word counts, semantic networkanalysis, and cognitive maps. We then describemethods that require the reduction of text tocodes. These include grounded theory, schemaanalysis, classical content analysis, content dic-tionaries, analytic induction, and ethnographicdecision models. Each of these methods of anal-ysishasadvantagesanddisadvantages.Someareappropriate for exploring data, others for mak-ing comparisons, and others for building andtesting models. Nothing does it all.
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Collecting and AnalyzingWords or Phrases
Techniques for Systematic Elicitation
Researchers use techniques for systematicelicitationtoidentifylistsofitemsthatbelongina cultural domain and to assess the relationshipsamong these items (for detailed reviews of thesemethods, see Bernard, 1994; Borgatti, 1998;Weller, 1998; Weller & Romney, 1988). Cul-tural domains comprise lists of words in a lan-guage that somehow “belong together.” Somedomains(suchasanimals,illnesses,thingstoeat)areverylargeandinclusive,whereasothers(ani-mals you can keep at home, illnesses that chil-dren get, brands of beer) are relatively small.Some lists (such as the list of terms for membersof a family or the names of all the Major LeagueBaseballteams)areagreedonbyallnativespeak-ers of a language; others (such as the list of car-penters’ tools) represent highly specializedknowledge, and still others (like the list of greatleft-handed baseball pitchers of the 20th cen-tury) are matters of heated debate. Below wereview some of the most common systematicelicitation techniques and how researchers ana-lyze the data they generate.
 Free Lists
Free lists are particularly useful for identify-ing the items in a cultural domain. To elicit do-mains,researchersmightask,“Whatkindsofill-nesses do you know?” Some short, open-endedquestionsonsurveyscanbeconsideredfreelists,as can some responses generated from in-depthethnographic interviews and focus groups. In-vestigators interpret the frequency of mentionand the order in which items are mentioned inthelistsasindicatorsofitemssalience(formea-sures of salience, see Robbins & Nolan, 1997;Smith, 1993; Smith & Borgatti, 1998). Theco-occurrenceofitemsacrosslistsandtheprox-imity with which items appear in lists may beused as measures of similarity among items(Borgatti,1998;Henley,1969;foraclearexam-ple, see Fleisher & Harrington, 1998).
 Paired Comparisons, Pile Sorts, Triad Tests
Researchers use paired comparisons, pilesorts,andtriadsteststoexplorethe
relationships
among items. Here are two questions we mightasksomeoneinapairedcomparisontestaboutalistoffruits:(a)“Onascaleof1to5,howsimilarare lemons and watermelons with regard tosweetness?”(b)“Whichissweeter,watermelonsor lemons?” The first question produces a set of fruit-by-fruitmatrices,oneforeachrespondent,the entries of which are scale values on the simi-larity of sweetness among all pairs of fruits. Thesecond question produces, for each respondent,a perfect rank ordering of the set of fruits.Inapilesort,theresearcheraskseachrespon-dent to sort a set of cards or objects into piles.Item similarity is the number of times each pairofitemsisplacedinthesamepile(forexamples,seeBoster,1994;Roos,1998).Inatriadtest,theresearcher presents sets of three items and askseach respondent either to “choose the two mostsimilar items” or to “pick the item that is the
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METHODS OF COLLECTING AND ANALYZING EMPIRICAL MATERIALS

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