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The SAGE Handbook of

Qualitative Data
Analysis

Uwe Flick

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1
Mapping the Field
Uwe Flick

Data analysis is the central step in qualitative for analysing qualitative data before we
research. Whatever the data are, it is their consider the expansion of the phenomena
analysis that, in a decisive way, forms the and data available for analysis. The dimen-
outcomes of the research. Sometimes, data sions demarcating the proliferation of quali-
collection is limited to recording and docu- tative research and, especially, qualitative
menting naturally occurring phenomena, for data analysis will be discussed here and
example by recording interactions. Then unfolded in more detail in the individual chap-
qualitative research is concentrated on ana- ters. After a definition of qualitative data anal-
lysing such recordings. Given the centrality ysis the major aims of qualitative data analysis
of the analysis in qualitative research, in will be outlined – such as reducing big data
general, a kind of stocktaking of the various sets to core elements or expanding small
approaches to qualitative analysis and of the pieces of data by adding extensive interpreta-
challenges it faces seems necessary. Anyone tions. Discussing some theoretical back-
interested in the current state and develop- grounds and basic methodological approaches
ment of qualitative data analysis will find a will complement this sketch of the field.
field which is constantly growing and becom- As the first axis, a historical line will be
ing less structured. There are many changes drawn, which intersects a second axis con-
which have evolved in parallel, making the cerning geographical diversity, which is
field even more complex than it used to be. sometimes ignored. In the next step, we will
This introductory chapter aims to map the look at the role of data analysis in the research
field of qualitative data analysis by discuss- process. Another axis is linked to the differ-
ing its extension and by drawing a number of ence between producing new data and taking
axes through the field that the handbook will existing, naturally occurring data for a research
cover in its chapters. We will look at the cur- project. A further distinction is related to the
rent variety of traditional and new methods major approaches to analysing data – either

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4 MAPPING THE FIELD

to reduce the volume or the complexity of the These developments have led to an inter-
data, or to expand the existing material by esting gap, which forms a second level of
writing new texts consisting of interpreta- proliferation: a variety of methods and
tions about it. The rather simple relation of approaches for data analysis have been
one kind of data to be analysed with one developed and spelled out in the methodol-
methodological approach has become more ogy literature mainly in the original disci-
complex at both ends when triangulation is plines. The range stretches from content
part of the methodology of a project. What analysis to conversation analysis, from
are the consequences for the analysis if mul- grounded theory to phenomenological analy-
tiple types of data are employed? What sis, from narrative to film analysis, from
becomes ‘visible’ if several forms of analysis visual data analysis to electronic data analy-
are applied to the same set of data? Another sis, etc. (see the respective chapters in this
axis through the field is linked to the tension volume). However, experience with review-
between formalization and intuition in the ing articles and PhD and other theses from
analysis. At the end of this chapter, some different disciplines shows how often the
new trends and developments in the field will analysis of qualitative data is done in more or
be outlined. Here, new types of data, a trend less a ‘hands-on’ way in both the original and
to visualization and developments on the the other disciplines. Researchers sometimes
level of technological support for doing the ‘just do it’ (to use a phrase of Barney Glaser,
analysis will be discussed. Qualitative 1998) or they look for certain topics in their
research is more and more confronted with materials and construct an account of their
some new challenges – how to make data findings by illustrating these topics with
available for re- and meta-analysis; what do ‘interesting’ quotations from interviews, for
the calls for relevance and implementation example. These quotes are often not really
mean in this context; and what are the ethical analysed in the article (or PhD dissertation)
issues around qualitative data analysis? After but treated as illustrations. Another way of
briefly discussing these issues, an overview describing (and doing) qualitative data anal-
of the handbook and its parts and chapters ysis is to mix up tools with methods. Articles
will complete this introduction. in which the method of data analysis is
described by only referring to the Qualitative
Data Analysis (QDA) program (see Gibbs,
PROLIFERATION OF QUALITATIVE Chapter 19, this volume) that was applied are
RESEARCH still quite common. All in all, this means that
there is a gap between methodological devel-
Over the past few decades, qualitative opments on one side and research practice on
research has undergone a proliferation on at the other. This gap results from the lack of a
least three levels. First, it has established systematic and comparative overview and
itself in a wide range of disciplines beyond stocktaking of the variety of analytic proce-
such disciplines as sociology, anthropology dures that are available for doing qualitative
and education. We find qualitative research data analysis. This handbook intends to
now in such varied fields as nursing, medi- bridge this gap by giving an overview of
cine, social work, psychology, information methodological approaches with a strong
science, political science, and the like. focus on research practice in applying them
Even if in many of these disciplines quali- to data and emphasizes the practical applica-
tative research is not in the mainstream of tion of methods rather than their conceptual
research and not at the core of methods development.
training or teaching in general, ongoing Qualitative research has undergone a
research increasingly includes qualitative third major proliferation over the past few
studies. decades, which concerns the types of

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Mapping the Field 5

data that are used. Interviews, focus group project. The handbook intends to cover the
transcripts and observation protocols are variety of approaches starting from the
traditional types of data, which are now diversity of types of data that are used in
complemented with visual, virtual, textual, qualitative research.
acoustic and other data. These forms of data
represent the diversification of ways of
communication and documentation of indi- WHAT IS QUALITATIVE DATA
vidual and social experiences. At the same ANALYSIS?
time, methods for producing these data
have proliferated as well and new devices The central focus of this book is the variety
for recording activities and processes in and diversity of the ways of doing qualitative
their complexity have been developed. data analysis. Therefore it might be helpful
Video­ taping, acoustic recording devices, first to outline the common core of this prac-
Internet formats like Facebook, etc., are tice by (1) giving a working definition,
adopted to catch relevant aspects of the life followed by (2) discussing the aims of quali-
worlds in the twenty-first century. How- tative data analysis and finally by (3) looking
ever, this proliferation of issues to be ana- at theoretical backgrounds and basic meth-
lysed and of data produced and available odological approaches.
has not always been accompanied by a
systematic and adequate proliferation of
Definition
approaches for analysing such qualitative
data. The methods that are used are often In Box 1.1 a rather general definition of
traditional ones (e.g. grounded theory, qualitative data analysis is outlined which
coding, content analysis) or are developed emphasizes the move from data to meanings
but mostly applied hands-on for the single or representations.

Box 1.1  What Is Qualitative Data Analysis?


Qualitative data analysis is the classification and interpretation of linguistic (or visual) material
to make statements about implicit and explicit dimensions and structures of meaning-making
in the material and what is represented in it. Meaning-making can refer to subjective or social
meanings. Qualitative data analysis also is applied to discover and describe issues in the field
or structures and processes in routines and practices. Often, qualitative data analysis combines
approaches of a rough analysis of the material (overviews, condensation, summaries) with
approaches of a detailed analysis (elaboration of categories, hermeneutic interpretations or
identified structures). The final aim is often to arrive at generalizable statements by comparing
various materials or various texts or several cases.

Aims of Qualitative Data Analysis diagnosis). This can focus on the case (indi-
vidual or group) and its special features and
The analysis of qualitative data can have the links between them. The analysis can also
several aims. The first aim may be to describe focus on comparing several cases (individu-
a phenomenon in some or greater detail. The als or groups) and on what they have in com-
phenomenon can be the subjective experi- mon or on the differences between them. The
ences of a specific individual or group (e.g. second aim may be to identify the conditions
the way people continue to live after a fatal on which such differences are based. This

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6 MAPPING THE FIELD

means to look for explanations for such dif- implicit and even unconscious aspects of a
ferences (e.g. circumstances which make it social phenomenon. Data again come from
more likely that the coping with a specific recording interactions but also from analysing
illness situation is more successful than in phenomena beyond individual awareness.
other cases). The third aim may be to develop Here the interpretation of phenomena, interac-
a theory of the phenomenon under study tion and discourses comes to the fore. The
from the analysis of empirical material (e.g. backgrounds of these approaches are in the
a theory of illness trajectories). first case knowledge and meaning that can be
The aims above are three general aims of reported by the participants. This can be linked
qualitative data analysis. In addition we can back theoretically to social theories such as
distinguish the analysis of (1) content from symbolic interactionism (Blumer, 1969). In the
that of (2) formal aspects and from approaches second approach, the practices and routines
that (3) combine both. For example, we can that make everyday life possible and work are
look at what participants report about their in the background of the concrete methodo-
illness experiences and compare the contents logical procedures. The theoretical roots of this
of such reports with statements made by other approach are ethnomethodology (e.g. Garfinkel,
participants. Or we can look at formal aspects 1967). Participants are not necessarily aware
of an interaction about these experiences of these routines or reflecting on them. In the
(with a family member or a professional), third approach, knowledge beyond the indi-
when the language becomes unclear, pauses viduals’ accessibility is to the fore. The theo-
become longer, and the like. Or we can look retical roots are structuralist models and
at the content and formal aspects in a public psychoanalysis and its concept of the uncon-
discourse about chronic illness. The hand- scious. Although the focus of the handbook is
book provides chapters on methods for pursu- on research practice rather than on theories, it
ing each of these aims in qualitative analysis. covers methods that make all of these
approaches work in qualitative data analysis.
Theoretical Backgrounds and Basic
Methodological Approaches
HISTORICAL DEVELOPMENTS
Qualitative data analysis – as qualitative
research in general – can take three approaches When the history of qualitative research is
to analysing social phenomena. A first approach considered, reference is often made to
puts subjective experiences as the focus: what Denzin and Lincoln’s (2005: 14–20; 2011: 3)
are patients’ experiences of being chronically stage model (see also Flick, 2014: ch. 2, for
ill from a specific disease; how do they the following discussion). They present
describe living with it; what are their explana- ‘eight moments of qualitative research’.
tions for being in this situation? For this These stages can also be taken as a starting
approach data often come from interviews point for a developmental perspective on
with the patients – or from documents such as qualitative data analysis. The traditional
the diaries that patients have written. A second period is located between the early twentieth
approach focuses on describing the making of century and the Second World War. The Chi-
a social situation: how does the family of the cago School in sociology or the research of
patient interact about the illness and its conse- Malinowski in ethnography are used as
quences for their family and public life? For examples. During this period, qualitative
this approach, data, for example, result from data analysis aimed at a more or less objec-
participant observation or from recording fam- tive description of social phenomena in soci-
ily interactions with or about the patient and ety or in other cultures. The second stage is
the illness. A third approach is to go beyond called the modernist phase, which extends
the first two approaches and into spheres of from the 1950s to the 1970s. It is marked by

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Mapping the Field 7

publications such as Glaser and Strauss’s research question. Researchers, who inter-
(1967) textbook on how to do qualitative pret the interview and present it as part of
analysis with the aim of theory development. their findings, produce a new version of the
In that period, data analysis was driven by whole. In this context, the evaluation of
various ways of coding for materials often research and findings becomes a central topic
obtained from participant observation. in methodological discussions. This raises
Ethnomethodology (Garfinkel, 1967) at the the question as to whether traditional criteria
same time turned the focus on more and are still valid and, if not, which other stand-
more formal analysis of everyday practices ards should be applied in assessing qualita-
and mainly of conversations. The attitudes of tive research (see Barbour, Chapter 34, this
both kinds of research are still alive in cur- volume). At the same time, the technical
rent qualitative research (see Thornberg and devices for analysing data proliferated and
Charmaz, Chapter 11, Eberle, Chapter 13, all sorts of programs were developed that
and Toerien, Chapter 22, this volume). could be selected if they matched the ques-
Denzin and Lincoln use a term introduced tions and type of research at stake.
by Geertz (1983) to characterize the develop- For the fifth moment (in the 1990s)
ments up to the mid-1980s: blurred genres. Denzin and Lincoln mention that narratives
Various theoretical models and understand- have replaced theories, or theories are read
ings of the objects and methods stand side by as narratives. Here (as in postmodernism, in
side, from which researchers can choose and general) the end of grand narratives is pro-
compare ‘alternative paradigms’, such as claimed; the accent is shifted towards (local)
symbolic interactionism, ethnomethodology, theories and narratives that fit specific,
phenomenology, and others. Data analysis delimited, local, historical situations, and
turned more to interpretation of phenomena problems. Data analysis adapted to this turn.
(narratives, ethnographic descriptions) and In the next stage (sixth moment) post-
writing essays rather than coding and catego- experimental writing, linking issues of qual-
rizing (which continued to be used, however). itative research to democratic policies,
In this period, the first software programs and became more prominent. The seventh
packages for computer-supported data analy- moment is characterized by further estab-
sis were developed (see Gibbs, Chapter 19, lishing qualitative research through various
this volume). new journals. Denzin and Lincoln’s eighth
In the mid-1980s, the crisis of representa- moment in the development of qualitative
tion, the presentation and, in particular, the research focused on the rise of evidence-
process of writing in research became central based practice as the new criterion of rele-
topics. The focus on analysing data was vance for social science and to the new
much more on interpretation than on identi- conservatism in the United States.
fying linear models. For example, the para- Denzin and Lincoln’s outline of its history
digm model suggested by Strauss and Corbin is often taken as a general reference for the
(1990) as an orientation for coding data development of qualitative research. How-
assumes that causes lead to phenomena and ever, as authors like Alasuutari (2004) sug-
they, in turn, lead to consequences, and pro- gest, this general ‘progress narrative’ (2004:
poses to look for such chains of concepts. In 599) is mainly focused on the development
this period, qualitative research and data in the Anglo-Saxon area. Instead, he pro-
analysis are understood as a continuous pro- poses a spatial, rather than a temporal, view
cess of constructing versions of reality. After of the development of qualitative research. In
all, the version of themselves that people this way Denzin and Lincoln’s history of
present in an interview does not necessarily qualitative research can be complemented
correspond to the version they would have with the various ways qualitative research
given to a different researcher with a different has developed in other regions.

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8 MAPPING THE FIELD

German-Speaking Areas methods no longer were imports of American


developments and stimulated extensive
Qualitative research in German-speaking research practice, mainly in biographical
areas can be traced back to the works of Max research. Most important was their influence
Weber and Alfred Schütz, for example, but on the general discussion of qualitative meth-
had become less influential after the Second ods in German-speaking areas.
World War here as well. They were rediscov- In the mid-1980s, questions about the
ered in the 1960s, when a series of anthologies validity and the generalizability of findings
imported and translated relevant articles from obtained with qualitative methods attracted
the American literature. Thus the basic texts broader attention. Related questions of pres-
on ethnomethodology or symbolic interaction- entation and the transparency of results were
ism became available for German discussion. also discussed. The quantity and, above all,
The model of the research process created by the unstructured nature of the data also pro-
Glaser and Strauss (1967) attracted much moted the use of computers in qualitative
attention and promoted the idea that it could research. One result was the development of
do more justice to the objects of research than software programs in Germany such as
was possible in quantitative research. ATLAS.ti and MAXQDA (see Gibbs, Chap-
At the end of the 1970s, a broader and more ter 19, this volume). Finally, the first original
original discussion began in Germany, which textbooks or introductions on the background
no longer relied exclusively on the translation of the discussions in the German-speaking
of American literature. This discussion dealt area were published (see Table 1.1).
with interviews, how to apply and how to This juxtaposition of American and German
analyse them, and with method­ological ques- developments is relevant here for two reasons.
tions that have stimulated extensive research First, the latter German developments – the
(see Flick et al., 2004, for an overview). theoretical and methodological discussions,
In the 1980s, two original methods were the methods resulting from them and the
developed that became crucial to the estab- research practice with them – are almost not
lishment of qualitative research in Germany: represented in Denzin and Lincoln’s stage
the narrative interview by Schütze (1977; see model or in the methodological discussions
Esin et al., Chapter 14, this volume) and around it – except for the two software pro-
objective hermeneutics (see Reichertz, 2004, grams. Thus, this development can be seen
and Wernet, Chapter 16, this volume). Both as an example of spatial differentiation

Table 1.1  Phases in the history of qualitative research


United States Germany

Traditional period (1900 to 1945) Early studies (end of nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries)
Modernist phase (1945 to the 1970s) Phase of import (early 1970s)
Blurred genres (until the mid-1980s) Beginning of original discussions (late 1970s)
Crisis of representation (since the mid-1980s) Developing original methods (1970s and 1980s)
Fifth moment (the 1990s) Consolidation and procedural questions (late 1980s and
1990s)
Sixth moment (post-experimental writing) Research practice (since the 1980s)
Seventh moment (establishing qualitative research Methodological proliferation and technological
through successful journals, 2000 to 2004) developments (since the 1990s)
Eighth moment (the future and new challenges – since Establishing qualitative research (journals, book series,
2005) scientific societies – since the 1990s)

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Mapping the Field 9

(Alasuutari, 2004) that is neglected in the for your statements to be later analysed and
general progress narrative recognized in the interpreted. Gobo (2012) discusses a number
Anglo-Saxon literature. of necessary and taken-for-granted precondi-
Second, some of the methodological out- tions of using this approach in qualitative
comes of this development will be taken up research. These include the ability on the part
in this handbook in extra chapters on such of the interviewee to speak for him or herself,
topics as phenomenology (see Eberle, and an awareness of him or herself as an
Chapter 13), (objective) hermeneutics (see autonomous and independent individual; an
Wernet, Chapter 16) and the further elabo- extended concept of public opinion, neces-
rations of content analysis (see Schreier, sary for communicating opinions and atti-
Chapter 12). tudes and describing behaviours considered
Several authors now argue for more open- private in a pre-industrial society, etc. As we
ness to local and cultural diversity regarding experience in our own research with migrants
the development and progress of qualitative from Russian-speaking countries, being inter-
research. In this context, several overviews viewed (and recorded) has different connota-
of the internationalization of qualitative tions and is much less a normal routine (Flick
research, in particular in Europe and across and Röhnsch, forthcoming). Instead, we
the cultural, linguistic, and methodological found that many interviews are connected
diversities, can widen the perspective on with being investigated by the state and the
what qualitative research in various geo- expected self-disclosure is anything but nor-
graphical areas is like in times of globaliza- mal, but conflicting with some cultural val-
tion (see Knoblauch et al., 2005; Ryan and ues. The same criticism applies to research
Gobo, 2011; Schnettler and Rebstein 2012; involving observation where a researcher
and Flick, forthcoming). Hsiung (2012), for takes notes about everyday routines and inter-
example, discusses a core–periphery divide action and writes reports about field contacts.
in this context. Anglo-American (core) meth- Again this is linked to practices of control by
ods and texts are translated and exported to the state and of breaching privacy. These cul-
Asian countries currently and define what tural differences in the meanings linked to
qualitative research is about and push local practices that are basic for prominent qualita-
methodologies aside. Alasuutari (2004) dis- tive methods become relevant in applying
cusses this problem by juxtaposing a tempo- these methods in intercultural contexts, in
ral development approach (the eight phases recruiting participants and in negotiating
of qualitative research) with a spatial informed consent with them (see Mertens,
approach that focuses more on local tradi- Chapter 35, this volume), and has an impact
tions of qualitative research, in general. on what we can analyse as data in the process.
At the same time, discussions started and These issues cannot be discussed here exten-
are recognized as necessary about the West- sively but illustrate the need for reflecting on
ern-culture-based tacit assumptions of some our research approaches for their underlying
of the major qualitative methods. This can and sometimes implicit cultural assumptions.
only be illustrated here briefly for interview
and observational methods. In Western Euro-
pean societies it is quite normal for people to THE ROLE OF DATA ANALYSIS IN THE
be interviewed and it is also normal to talk RESEARCH PROCESS
about one’s own personal history and indi-
vidual experiences to a professional stranger. The analysis of qualitative data is often one
It is not uncommon to have such a conversa- step in a series of steps throughout the
tion recorded if some rules are defined research process. It comes after field access
(anonymization, data protection, etc.). It may has been found, sampling decisions have been
be an irritating idea, but it is still quite normal taken, data have been collected, recorded

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10 MAPPING THE FIELD

and elaborated (e.g. transcribed). In such a USING ELICITED DATA OR


model of the research process, an intensive ANALYSING EXISTING PHENOMENA
data analysis only starts when all data have
been collected and prepared. In other cases, Another axis through the field of qualitative
the analysis begins with the collection of the data analysis is linked to the question of
data and both steps are applied in a parallel, where the data come from or, in other words,
sometimes entangled way. Qualitative data what is used or accepted as data. On one side
analysis can also be the central step in of this axis, we find data that result from
qualitative research to which all other steps employing specific methods to produce them
are subordinated. Data collection then is for the purpose of the actual research: inter-
only a means for advancing the analysis of views (see Roulston, Chapter 20, this vol-
the phenomenon and what is available so ume) are a prominent way of producing such
far as empirical material referring to it. data as are focus groups (see Barbour, Chap-
Other decisions in the research process are ter 21, this volume). Data coming from par-
driven by the state of the data analysis and ticipant observation (see Marvasti, Chapter
the questions still unanswered. A promi- 24, this volume) or ethnography (see Gubrium
nent example for this approach to data and Holstein, Chapter 3, this volume) and the
analysis is grounded theory, where sam- field notes written for the research also fall
pling decisions, sometimes the decisions into this category. On the other side of this
about which methods to use for further divide, we find approaches based on the idea
collection of data etc., are driven by the of using naturally occurring data instead of
state of the data analysis. Most prominent producing them specifically for the research.
is the concept of ‘theoretical sampling’ The act of data collection in such cases is
(see Rapley, Chapter 4, and Thornberg and limited to recording, for example, everyday
Charmaz, Chapter 11, this volume), which interactions or routine practices in profes-
means that sampling decisions are taken sional work. The analytic approaches such as
with the focus on further elaborating or conversation analysis (see Toerien, Chapter 22,
substantiating the categories developed in this volume) and discourse analysis (see Wil-
the analysis so far. The linear model of the lig, Chapter 23, this volume) but also herme-
research process then is replaced by a more neutics (see Wernet, Chapter 16, this vol-
modular model, in which the analysis of ume) not only use naturally occurring data,
data has become the central node in the but also link their analyses closely to the data
organization of the other elements of the and their (temporal) structure. Researchers
researchers’ work. This means it is not so do not navigate through the data every which
much the specific features of the data that way in looking for excerpts for filling cate-
drives the analysis, but the analysis drives gories, but apply the principle of sequential-
the search for data in different formats. A ity (see Wernet, Chapter 16, but also Toerien,
similar centrality of the analysis of phe- Chapter 22, this volume). This means the
nomena and the search for appropriate material is analysed from beginning to end
types of data can be found in ethnographic and following its temporal development.
research (see Gubrium and Holstein, Chap- Coming back to the line between produced
ter 3, this volume), although here the writ- and naturally occurring data, we again find
ing about the phenomenon and the field approaches in which both forms are used.
becomes a major element in the data analy- The analysis of documents (see Coffey,
sis (see Denzin, Chapter 39, this volume). Chapter 25, this volume) is based either on
These brief examples show that there are existing documents (e.g. diaries written in
different approaches to the role of data everyday life) or on documents which are
analysis in the qualitative research process. produced for the purpose of the research

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Mapping the Field 11

(diaries written as part of a project and stimu- text is written in addition to or about the
lated by the researchers). In discourse analy- original material. This second level describes,
sis, interviews are frequently used (see the analyses and explains the meaning of the
examples in Willig, Chapter 23, this volume) original text (e.g. interview statements, focus
and the strong rejections of such data, which group discussions, documents or images).
could be found in the beginning, have Such interpretations often are longer and
become less dominant. As recent develop- more substantial than the original text. Exam-
ments demonstrate, conversation analysis ples of making this strategy work in a methodo-
(see Toerien, Chapter 22, this volume) is now logical procedure are the phenomenological
also used for analysing the interaction and approaches (see Eberle, Chapter 13, this vol-
dynamics in focus groups (see Barbour, ume), the documentary method (see Bohnsack,
Chapter 21, this volume). Ethnography also Chapter 15, this volume) or hermeneutic
makes the distinction between analysing approaches (see Wernet, Chapter 16, this
‘natural’ data – like observing everyday rou- volume). Maybe this juxtaposition of two
tines – instead of asking participants to talk alternative approaches overemphasizes the
about these routines in extra research situa- differences, as any process of coding includes
tions like interviews, although much of the interpretation at one point or another – for
data in ethnography also come from talking example, in the step of memo writing in
with members in the field (‘ethnographic grounded theory (see Thornberg and Charmaz,
interviews’). Again, the handbook will cover Chapter 11, this volume). At the same time,
both alternatives discussed in this paragraph. any sort of interpretation at some point turns
to identifying some kind of structure – like
types or patterns – for organizing the diver-
MAJOR APPROACHES TO sity in the material in a clear and orienting
ANALYSING DATA way. Thus, we often find combinations of
both strategies when it comes to analysing
In the range of approaches to analysing quali- specific types of data. The handbook is not
tative data, we can find two major strategies. confined to one sort of analysis, but intends to
The first one is oriented to reducing big sets cover the range of the major approaches.
of data or the complexity in the data. The
major methodological step is to code the data.
This basically means to find a label that TRIANGULATION OF PERSPECTIVES
allows the grouping of several elements
(statements or observation) under one con- Multiple Types of Data
cept, so that we have a more or less limited
number of codes (or categories) rather than a As the number of research projects which
large variety of diverse phenomena. The most apply triangulation (see Flick, 2007) or mixed
prominent way of pursuing this aim is quali- methods approaches (see Morse and Maddox,
tative content analysis (see Schreier, Chapter Chapter 36, this volume) has grown, there are
12, this volume). However, grounded theory also more and more projects that involve the
coding, also, in the end aims at reducing the analysis of multiple types of data. In our own
diversity in the field and in the data by iden- research, we often have interviews and obser-
tifying a core category or a basic social pro- vations or interviews and routine statistical
cess (see Thornberg and Charmaz, Chapter data (see Flick et al., 2012) in a single project.
11, this volume). The second strategy aims We also have various types of interviews
rather at expanding the material by producing applied in one study – for example, episodic
one or more interpretations (see Willig, Chap- interviews (Flick, 2007) with homeless ado-
ter 10, this volume). Here, a second level of lescents and expert interviews with service

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12 MAPPING THE FIELD

providers. In all of these examples and in aspects are put in the foreground, vary
such multiple methods projects in general, the across the five approaches. Thus we find
question arises as to whether we can use one ‘Constructing a grounded theory of loss and
and the same analytic method for all the types regaining a valued self’ (Charmaz, 2011) as
of data, or should we use different approaches the approach and result of the grounded
to the data of each type? On a closer look, theory approach. The analysis of the same
these multiple types of data not only vary in material focuses on ‘Enhancing oneself,
the way they were collected (which method diminishing others’ (McMullen, 2011).
was applied), but also vary in the form of Thus this book provides an interesting
sampling (see Rapley, Chapter 4, this vol- insight into the differences and commonali-
ume) that was applied and this may have ties of various empirical approaches to the
implications for any attempts at generalizing same transcript.
the findings (see Maxwell and Chmiel,
Chapter 37, this volume). Finally, they vary
in the degree of exactness in their documen- THE TENSION BETWEEN
tation. Interviews, for example, are mostly FORMALIZATION AND INTUITION
available on two levels of documentation:
the acoustic or audio-visual recording and This example raises an issue that has been an
the transcription (see Kowal and O’Connell, implicit topic in the history of qualitative
Chapter 5, this volume). Observations and research as well and also plays a role in some
ethnographic data, in general, are in most of the points we will turn to later. How far can
cases only documented on the level of the we expect and should we wish to formalize
researcher’s field notes. qualitative data analysis? There are two end-
Triangulation means to take several meth- points of this dimension. One is to set up more
odological perspectives or theoretical or less exact rules for how to apply a specific
perspectives on an issue under study (see method formally correct (Mayring, 2000, in
Denzin, 1970; Flick, 2007). In general, tri- his version of qualitative content analysis is an
angulation is not really a new trend as there example for this – see Schreier, Chapter 12,
has been a long discussion about combining this volume). The other one is what Glaser
methods in qualitative research or combin- (1998) has formulated for his version of
ing qualitative and quantitative research. grounded theory (see Thornberg and Charmaz,
But, mainly, triangulation is located in the Chapter 11, this volume) as ‘just do it’ – go
phase of data collection. Recently, such a into the data (or the field) and find out what is
combination of perspectives has been interesting about them. The general dimension
applied to one set of data. In their book, here is how far qualitative data analysis
similar to what Heinze et al. (1980) did should be formalized by (methodological)
much earlier with a biographical interview, rules or by a close and exclusive link of a
Wertz et al. (2011) take one interview and specific sort of data to a particular method of
analyse it with five different methods, analysis (and vice versa). Between these two
among them grounded theory (see Thorn- endpoints we find the more realistic stance
berg and Charmaz, Chapter 11, this volume), that a good qualitative analysis finds a combi-
discourse analysis (see Willig, Chapter 23, nation of rules that are applied and make the
this volume) and narrative research (see analysis transparent on the one hand and the
Esin et al., Chapter 14, this volume). The necessary degree of intuition on the other (and
book also provides some detailed compari- abduction – see Reichertz, Chapter 9, and
sons of what pairs of methods produced as Thornberg and Charmaz, Chapter 11, this vol-
differences and similarities in analysing the ume) that make the analysis creative and fruit-
text. It also becomes evident that not only ful. But the tension comes from the question
the way the text is analysed, but also which of the right balance between formalization and

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Mapping the Field 13

intuition. How to avoid methods that bring too qualitative research is still based on inter-
much of a formalization or are too much of an views (see Roulston, Chapter 20, this volume)
intuitive art? How to avoid certain aspects of or focus groups (see Barbour, Chapter 21, this
the research process – for example, the use of volume), in particular in those disciplines now
software – having an unwanted impact on just discovering qualitative research. How-
what counts as data and their analysis? This ever, in more cutting-edge discussions and
general tension has been relevant throughout research contexts of qualitative research, we
the history of qualitative data analysis and can notice a diversification of phenomena of
becomes relevant again and again and is interest and of data used for analysing them.
important for many of the approaches pre- First we find a permanently growing interest
sented in the following chapters. in visual data – from photos (see Banks,
Chapter 27, this volume) to videos (see
Knoblauch et al., Chapter 30, this volume)
QUALITATIVE DATA ANALYSIS 2.0: and films (see Mikos, Chapter 28, this vol-
NEW TRENDS AND DEVELOPMENTS ume). This is complemented by the interest
in analysing acoustic data such as sounds in
The field of qualitative data analysis has general or music in particular (see Maeder,
always been in movement as new methods or Chapter 29, this volume). Another trend,
new formalizations of existing methods have sometimes overlapping with the first two, is
been developed. One challenge for a hand- the interest in all kinds of documents (see
book trying to cover this field could be just to Coffey, Chapter 25, this volume) from rou-
cover what has been established and accepted tine records to diaries and the like. At
as the most relevant methods in several fields the same time, conversations (see Toerien,
of application. However, qualitative data Chapter 22, this volume) and discourses (see
analysis in the twenty-first century faces new Willig, Chapter 23, this volume) continue to
challenges on several levels. These include play a major role in various research con-
new types of data, which call for adequate texts. The changing ways of communicating
ways for analysing them. Progress in the in new media and channels and through new
areas of methodology and technology comes technological devices produce new forms of
with new possibilities and new risks. The data, which can be used for analysing these
various contexts of utilization of qualitative phenomena. Here, virtual and mobile data
analysis in the field of social science and play a central role (see Marotzki et al., Chap-
beyond extend the expected and possible ter 31, this volume). The transfer of the
activities of the researchers. All these devel- approach of cultural studies (see Winter,
opments raise new ethical issues or existing Chapter 17, this volume) to analysing culture
ethical questions in a new way. Some of these through social media (see Kozinets et al.,
challenges might have stronger impacts on Chapter 18, this volume) calls for adequate
the traditions and practices of qualitative data strategies of analysing the resulting data.
analysis than we might expect and at the same
time open new areas and potentials for our
Visualization of a Textualized
analyses, so that it might be justified to use
‘qualitative data analysis 2.0’ as a label for its Field
future development. What is the more general result of these
trends beyond the diversification in the field?
New Types of Data/Phenomena In earlier days of qualitative research, texts
(statements, transcripts, descriptions of fields
as Challenges
and images) were the dominant medium for
The range of types of data in qualitative phenomena to become data in qualitative
research continues to expand. A major part of analysis. Compared with that we face a more

01-Flick_Ch-01 Part I.indd 13 29-Oct-13 2:00:44 PM


14 MAPPING THE FIELD

or less fundamental change. More and more researchers have high hopes about the advan-
of the participants and contexts become vis- tages of using them, while others have con-
ible in the data, in what is processed in the cerns and fears about how the use of software
analysis and what is represented in the will change or even distort qualitative research
reports and publications. Images in general practice. Some of these hopes may be right,
provide a much fuller ‘picture’ than spoken- some of these fears may have a kernel of
word transcripts did. Quotes from images or truth, but some parts of both are more fantasy
videos used as evidence in writing about than anything else. For both parts it should
qualitative analyses often not only include be emphasized that there is a crucial differ-
participants’ faces and furniture from rooms, ence between this kind of software and pro-
for example, but a more or less comprehen- grams for statistical analysis (e.g., SPSS).
sive background information (e.g. other peo- QDA software does not do qualitative analy-
ple in the scene, details of the setting). Vir- sis itself or in an automatic way as SPSS can
tual and mobile data provide their specific do a statistical operation or a factor analysis:
image of the participant in the study. These ‘ATLAS.ti – like any other CAQDAS
extensions can be described as a visualiza- program – does not actually analyze data; it
tion of a field (qualitative data analysis) that is simply a tool for supporting the process of
was mainly built on texts (and their limits). It qualitative data analysis’ (Friese, 2011: 1).
produces new demands for managing the The discussion about the impact of soft-
richer (and bigger, more complex) data tech- ware on qualitative research began with
nically, but also in ethically sound ways. For development of the very first programs. In
the first demand, the rapid development of this discussion one finds various concerns.
technologies for supporting analysis can First of all, some of the leading programs
become more and more attractive. were developed on the back of a specific
approach – coding according to grounded
Technological Developments: theory – and are more difficult to apply to
other approaches. Another concern is that
CAQDAS
software implicitly forces its logical and
Since the mid 1980s there has been far- display structure upon the data and the
reaching technological change in the analysis researcher’s analysis. Finally, there is a fear
of data, which is linked to the use of comput- that the attention attracted by the computer
ers in qualitative research (see also Flick, and the software will distract the researcher
2014: ch. 28, for the following discussion). from the real analytic work – reading, under-
Here, we can note the general changes in standing and contemplating the texts, and so
working patterns in the social sciences on. In the KWALON experiment (see Evers
brought about by the personal computer, et al., 2011, and Gibbs, Chapter 19, this vol-
word processing, cloud computing and ume), this impact of software on qualitative
mobile devices. However, it is also important analysis was studied by giving the same
to see the specific developments in and for material to researchers using different soft-
qualitative research. A wide range of com- ware programs in their analysis. But, in the
puter programs is available, mostly focused end, it depends on the users and their ways of
on the area of qualitative data analysis. The making the computer and the software useful
programs are sometimes referred to as QDA for the ongoing research and how they reflect
(Qualitative Data Analysis) software or as on what they are doing.
CAQDAS (Computer-Aided Qualitative However, in their account of the history
Data Analysis Software – see Gibbs, Chapter and future of technology in qualitative
19, this volume). The introduction of com- research, Davidson and di Gregorio (2011)
puter programs in the field of qualitative data see us ‘in the midst of a revolution’. These
analysis has produced mixed feelings. Some authors have linked developments in the field

01-Flick_Ch-01 Part I.indd 14 29-Oct-13 2:00:44 PM


Mapping the Field 15

of QDA software to developments in the important for demonstrating the need for
field of Web 2.0 applications such as You- qualitative research and for facing the chal-
Tube, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Their basic lenge of impact.
idea for the future of using technologies in
qualitative analysis is that the software so far
Ethical Issues in Qualitative
discussed in the field of qualitative data
analysis (see Gibbs, Chapter 19, this volume) Analysis
will be challenged or replaced by apps devel- Finally, all the developments and discussions
oped by interested users again. The tools in the field of qualitative data analysis men-
developed in such contexts are focusing tioned so far have implications on the level
much on collaborative analysis (of video of research ethics. The new forms of data
data, for example), collaborative writing (see raise issues of data protection and more gen-
Cornish et al., Chapter 6, this volume) and erally of keeping the privacy of research
developments (in wikis or cloud computing, participants. They also raise questions of
for example) on blogging with hyperlinks as how comprehensive the knowledge about the
ways of collaborating and the like. participants and the circumstances has to be
for answering the specific research question
of a project. How can the analysis do justice
Reanalysis of Data and Meta- to the participants and their perspective?
analysis of Results How does the presentation of the research
Another challenge for qualitative data analy- and its findings maintain their privacy as
sis is the trend to reuse the data and findings much as possible? How can feedback on
of studies – to make them available for rea- insights from the analysis take the partici-
nalysis by other researchers (see Wästersfors pants’ perspective into account and do justice
et al., Chapter 32, this volume) and to do to their expectations and feelings (see
meta-analyses based on several qualitative Mertens, Chapter 35, this volume)?
studies in a field (see Timulak, Chapter 33,
this volume). These approaches are new QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS BETWEEN
methodological tools for answering research METHODS AND DATA – OVERVIEW
questions. However, the question is whether
OF THE HANDBOOK
the need of producing studies ready to be re-
or meta-analysed has an impact on the way
The topics mentioned in this brief mapping
original studies can or should be done in the
of the field of qualitative data analysis will
future.
be addressed in the major parts and single
chapters of the handbook in more detail.
The Call for Implementation and Part II takes a perspective on issues prior
to the work with data in qualitative analysis
Relevance and Evidence
and addresses concepts, contexts and frame-
The call for relevance of qualitative analyses works of qualitative data analysis. The epis-
has been expressed in different contexts: temological framework will be outlined in
funding agencies often have the expectation the form of a theory of qualitative data analy-
that research leads to results that can be sis (see Maxwell and Chmiel, Chapter 2).
implemented in specific areas (see Murray, Inspiration in fieldwork is what makes meth-
Chapter 40, this volume). Researchers often odological approaches work (see Gubrium
have the aspiration to arrive at some change and Holstein, Chapter 3). Sampling (see
for the participants in their research. As the Rapley, Chapter 4) and transcription (see
discussion about ‘evidence’ in qualitative Kowal and O’Connell, Chapter 5) are practi-
research shows, this whole issue can become cal steps with a strong impact on the data that

01-Flick_Ch-01 Part I.indd 15 29-Oct-13 2:00:44 PM


16 MAPPING THE FIELD

are finally available for analysis. Concepts of In Part IV, a different perspective is taken:
how to do the analysis are issues of the next here, specific types of data are the starting
three chapters: What are the benefits and points for discussing the specific challenges
challenges of working collaboratively they produce for qualitative data analysis.
on data (see Cornish et al., Chapter 6)? Distinctions made earlier in this chapter
Which are the concepts of comparison (see determine the structure of this part. The first
Palmberger and Gingrich, Chapter 7) in a three chapters address data elicited in apply-
qualitative analysis? How to give reflexivity ing specific methods of data collection: inter-
in the practice of qualitative analysis ade- views (see Roulston, Chapter 20), focus
quate space (see May and Perry, Chapter 8)? groups (see Barbour, Chapter 21) and obser-
The remaining chapters in Part II address vations (see Marvasti, Chapter 24). The sec-
epistemological issues again. Inferences (see ond group of chapters is about analysing data
Reichertz, Chapter 9) can be drawn using based on documenting existing phenomena
induction, deduction and abduction. Interpre- such as specific practices. On the level of
tation is a basic operation in qualitative data words and interactions, these phenomena
analysis (see Willig, Chapter 10). include conversations (see Toerien, Chapter
Part III takes a stronger focus on the avail- 22), discourses (see Willig, Chapter 23) and
able methods of qualitative data analysis and documents (see Coffey, Chapter 25). Visual
presents a range of analytic strategies on data, for example pictures (see Banks, Chap-
various levels and in greater detail. Variants ter 27), films (see Mikos, Chapter 28) and
of coding are the first strategy that is unfolded videos (see Knoblauch et al., Chapter 30)
in chapters on grounded theory coding (see also refer to documentations of existing phe-
Thornberg and Charmaz, Chapter 11), on nomena on the level of still and moving
content analysis (see Schreier, Chapter 12) images. Beyond and including these two
and on tools based on these methods (such as levels, newly identified forms of data such
computer programs, see Gibbs, Chapter 19). as sounds (see Maeder, Chapter 29) and
These approaches can be applied to all kinds virtual and mobile data (see Marotzki et al.,
of data. Different analytic strategies are the Chapter 31) complement the approaches to
issues of the following chapters. Phenome- social worlds.
nology (see Eberle, Chapter 13) and narrative Part V extends the perspective beyond the
analysis (see Esin et al., Chapter 14) refrain actual work with data in qualitative analysis
from using codes and categories but empha- again as it focuses on using and assessing
size the interpretation in their analysis. The qualitative data analysis and its results on
same applies to the documentary method in the several levels. Reusing data and existing
tradition of Karl Mannheim (see Bohnsack, analysis for research purposes is quite com-
Chapter 15) and hermeneutic approaches (see mon in quantitative research, but raises some
Wernet, Chapter 16), which both embed data new questions for qualitative research. The
analysis in an elaborated methodological practical steps and problems of reanalysing
framework. In the remaining chapters in this qualitative data (see Wästersfors et al.,
part, phenomena under study are analysed in Chapter 32) and the potential of qualitative
the framework of culture. The analysis of meta-analysis (see Timulak, Chapter 33) are
culture as an approach to study specific issues outlined. However, what will be the impact
has been pursued by cultural studies (see of such strategies on what counts as data and
Winter, Chapter 17) and transferred to virtual what as analysis in such contexts? Qualities
forms of culture, mainly social media (see of qualitative analysis are discussed in the
Kozinets et al., Chapter 18). The analytic next block of chapters: How to assess the
strategies covered by the chapters in this part quality of qualitative data analysis (see
refer to a broad range of methods that can be Barbour, Chapter 34)? What does an ethical
applied to all sorts of data. use of qualitative data and findings (see

01-Flick_Ch-01 Part I.indd 16 29-Oct-13 2:00:44 PM


Mapping the Field 17

Mertens, Chapter 35) mean? What about FURTHER READING


integrating quantitative data (see Morse and
Maddox, Chapter 36)? The final chapters go Denzin, Norman K. and Lincoln, Yvonna S. (eds) (2011)
beyond the actual data analysis and discuss The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Research, 4th
the transfer of its results into various con- edition. London: Sage.
texts. Generalization (see Maxwell and Flick, Uwe (ed.) (2007) The SAGE Qualitative Research
Chmiel, Chapter 37) has been an unanswered Kit. London: Sage.
Flick, Uwe (2014) An Introduction to Qualitative
question for a long time – how can findings
Research, 5th edition. London: Sage.
be transferred to other situations beyond the
one in which they were found? Theorization
in and from qualitative analysis (see Kelle, REFERENCES
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