Social Research

Fourth edition

by Sotirios Sarantakos

Chapter 15 - Qualitative Analysis

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Educational objectives
After completing this chapter, you will:
  1. have knowledge of the process of data analysis in qualitative research;
  2. be able to critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of qualitative analysis;
  3. have a clear understanding of the debate about the nature of qualitative data analysis and be able to respond intelligently to the various points made in the debate;
  4. have acquired basic knowledge of the ways in which qualitative analysis employs computers, and be aware of their strengths and limitations;
  5. be in a position to conduct a qualitative analysis.
  6. be able to position mixed-method research logically and methodologically within the domain of qualitative data analysis


  1. The timing of qualitative analysis
  2. Varieties of qualitative analysis
  3. Grounded theory
  4. Analytic induction
  5. Construction and deconstruction
  6. Qualitative mixed-method analysis
  7. Data analysis in narrative interviews
  8. Data presentation in qualitative research
  9. Computer-aided data analysis (CADA)

Points to remember

The following are the major points introduced in this chapter. Ensure that you are very confident with their meaning, content, context and significance.
  1. Quantitative and qualitative research employ different types of data analysis.
  2. For a number of qualitative researchers, analysis is a cyclical and not a linear process.
  3. For a number of qualitative researchers, data analysis takes place during and/or after data collection.
  4. Overall, data analysis in qualitative research is not as rigid and uniform as it is in quantitative research.
  5. In qualitative interviews one possible way of data analysis entails transcription, checking and editing, analysis and interpretation, generalisations and verifications.
  6. In case-study research, data analysis can be accomplished by one or more of the following methods: pattern-matching, explanation-building techniques, time-series analysis, making repeated observations and secondary analysis
  7. According to one view of qualitative research, interpretation includes the following tactics: noting patterns or themes, seeing plausibility, clustering, making metaphors, counting, making contrasts/comparisons, partitioning variables, subsuming particulars into general, factoring, noting relationships between variables, finding intervening variables, building a logical chain of evidence and making conceptual and theoretical coherence.
  8. Many qualitative researchers do not employ mathematical/statistical methods in data analysis. Others do.
  9. Grounded theory is one of the central methods of qualitative analysis, which has been adopted by researchers of a variety of schools of thought.
  10. Analytic induction is a powerful tool of qualitative analysis that combines elements of a variety of research contexts.
  11. Construction and deconstruction is a dynamic model of qualitative analysis which entails processes found also in other qualitative models of analysis.
  12. Analysis of data produced by narrative interviews focuses on "a reconstruction of the orientation patterns of action".
  13. The two most important characteristics (and advantages) of narrative interviews are the retrospective interpretation and the closeness of detailed stories to reality.
  14. Qualitative researchers extensively employ computers in data analysis. Several computer programs have been developed to aid with qualitative data analysis.
  15. Computers are used in qualitative research for recording and storing, coding, retrieving and linking data, and displaying and integrating data.
  16. Qualitative analysis has been expanded to include quantitative procedures of some kind particularly within the domain of mixed-method research.

Short-answer questions

Answer each question carefully (there is no need to write down the answer). Consult your Social Research text when your memory fails you or when you are in doubt about the accuracy of your responses.
  1. What are the major elements of qualitative analysis?
  2. What are the main types of coding in qualitative research?
  3. Describe the differences between open, axial and selective coding.
  4. How is qualitative analysis done when data collection is accomplished through qualitative interviews? Is this process of analysis compatible with the standards and principles of qualitative research?
  5. Are statistical measures employed in qualitative analysis?
  6. Describe briefly the main steps of data analysis conducted within the context of grounded theory.
  7. Explain the nature and process of analytic induction, and its relationship to grounded theory.
  8. What is characteristic in narrative interviews and how different is the analysis of their data from other methods of analysis?
  9. Introduce briefly the essence of 'construction and deconstruction' as a method of qualitative analysis.
  10. What are the major types of data presentation in qualitative research?
  11. Describe briefly the nature and usefulness of matrices as employed in qualitative research.
  12. Is it possible to employ quantitative methods of data presentation within qualitative research? If so, which methods appear to be relevant and suitable?
  13. How can qualitative researchers retain the classic principles of qualitative research and analysis when they accept the rules and standards of the mixed-method approach?
  14. Following the point made above, can qualitative research and qualitative analysis be considered epistemologically and methodologically different from quantitative research, particularly when the latter entails mixed-method procedures?
  15. Last but not least, how can qualitative research justify a unique methodological identity, when a part of its research procedure is quantitative?
  16. Qualitative comparative analysis employs Boolean algebra and computer algorithms. Is this method really "qualitative"?
  17. Thematic analysis is often combined with quantification and even with advanced statistical procedures. How does this method retain its qualitative nature?
  18. What is 'narrative analysis', and what are its major characteristics that make it different from other methods?
  19. What is 'optimal matching analysis'?
  20. What are the major methods of qualitative data analysis?
  21. How different is 'formal textual analysis' from ordinary 'textual analysis'?

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Practical exercises

  1. Review a journal article that employs qualitative analysis, and answer the following questions.

    a) Has the method of analysis been expressly defined, explained and justified?
    b) How many methods of analysis have been employed?
    c) What was the main method of data collection?
    d) Was the methodology fully integrated within the research project as a whole?
    e) Where the methods of analysis uniformly employed throughout the research?
    f) Was analysis conducted during, after or during and after data collection?
    g) What conclusions can you draw from this review of the journal regarding qualitative analysis?
  2. Review a journal article written within a feminist paradigm and conducted using qualitative research and answer the questions listed above.