Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016
Describing the Data Analysis
From Qualitative Research to a Journal Article
Conference Proposals and Article Types
Analyzing qualitative data can be perplexing. There are no worldwide guidelines to analyze, interpret, and summarize data. Researchers usually group narrative texts into a logical structure. The data analysis goes beyond description and become interpretive by examining what the participants said or did to understand and interpret their meaning, attitudes, and values.
Qualitative researchers vary in the way they report their data analyses. An extensive amount of literature on how to analyze qualitative data and examples is available in texts such as The coding manual for qualitative researchers (Saldaña, 2013), Qualitative data analysis: A methods sourcebook (Miles, Huberman, & Saldaña, 2013), and Analysis and interpretation of ethnographic data: A mixed methods approach (Ethnographer’s Toolkit) (LeCompte & Schensul, 2012). Regardless of how researchers write the analysis section, the process needs to be reported to readers in a way that identifies—and justifies—the methods selected. These methods need to (a) be related to the purpose of the study and (b) describe specific strategies (member checks, triangulation, etc.). Burnard (2004) provides the following example:
All of the interview transcripts were read by the researcher and coded in the style of a grounded theory approach to data analysis (refs). Eight category headings were generated from the data and under these all of the data were accounted for. Two independent researchers were asked to verify the seeming accuracy of the category system and, after discussion with them, minor modifications were made to it. In the grounded theory literature, a good category system is said to have ’emerged’ from the data (refs). Other commentators have noted that, in the end, it is always the researcher who finds and generates that system (refs). (Burnard, 2004, p. 178)
In a 5-month study, Saracho (2004) identified the roles that teachers assume in young children’s literacy-related play experiences, she analyzed her systematic observations and videotapes of the teachers’ actions and interactions to identify the teachers’ roles. The following is part of her description.
To categorize the roles of the teachers in a literacy-play environment, episodes were identified and transcribed from a series of videotapes. Precise transcriptions were made of the teachers’ and children’s actions and interactions. The roles of the teacher were selected from all the documented episodes. A methodical process that conformed to a defined set of criteria was employed in determining and eliminating the categories (Saracho, 1984). Specifically, Saracho’s (1984, 1988a, 1988b) procedure of analysis was used to categorize and delineate the roles of the teacher where the transcriptions are read, reread, and divided into sections that depict discrete units of literacy-related play behavior. Such units were categorized based on the pertinent role of the teacher that was defined. Frequency counts of behaviors in connection to each role were calculated. (Saracho, 2004, pp. 201—202)
Qualitative researchers need to identify and describe how they analyzed the data in relation to their research questions and purpose of the study. The descriptions need to provide sufficient detail on what they did, including member checks, triangulation, and any other methods that were used.
Activity 8.3: Qualitative Research’s Demands on the Writer
A quantitative study of college students’ library use would tend to rely on numbers (e.g., tabulating circulation figures) while a qualitative study would rely on words (e.g., observations of and interviews with library patrons). Qualitative research questions focus more on how; in this case, the actual ways that students use the library. How might the writing demands for each task differ? Make a two-column chart that compares/contrasts the skills that are most necessary for writing quantitative and qualitative research.