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Traditions and approaches within qualitative analysis

24/03/2018    hoangthuphuong   PHD Journey
Unlike quantitative analysis, there are no clearly agreed rules or procedures for analysing qualitative data. Approaches to analysis vary in terms of basic epistemological assumptions about the nature of qualitative enquiry and the status of researchers' accounts .(see Chapter 1). They also differ between different traditions in terms of the main focus and aims of the analytical process. These include:

ethnographic accounts which are largely descriptive and which detail the way of life of particular individuals, groups or organisations (Hammersley and Atkinson, 1995; Lofland and Lofland, 1995)

life histories which can be analysed as single narratives, as collections of stories around common themes, or quarried to construct an argument based on comparison between different accounts (Thompson, 2000)

narrative analysis which identifies the basic story which is being told, focusing on the way an account or narrative is constructed, the intention of the teller and the nature of the audience as well as the meaning of the story or 'plot' (Riessman, 1993)

content analysis in which both the content and context of documents are analysed: themes are identified, with the researcher focusing on the way the theme is treated or presented and the frequency of its occurrence. The analysis is then linked to 'outside variables' such as the gender and role
of the contributor (Berelson, 1952; Robson, 2002)

conversation analysis which focuses on the structure of conversation and classifies interaction in terms of key linguistic systems such as turn taking and adjacent pairs (Atkinson and Heritage, 1984; Silverman, 2000a)

discourse analysis which is concerned with the way knowledge is pro discourse analysis  duced within a particular discourse through the use of distinctive language (for example, legal discourse, medical discourse) or through the adoption of implicit theories in order to make sense of social action (for example, poverty, power, gender relations). Discourse analysis may also focus on what is going on in an interaction in terms of performances, linguistic styles, rhetorical devices and ways in which talk and text set out to convince and compete with alternative accounts (Silverman, 2001; Tonkiss, 2000)

analytic induction which aims to identify deterministic laws and the essential character of phenomena, involving an iterative process of defining a problem, formulating and testing an hypothesis, then reformulating the hypothesis or redefining the problem until all cases 'fit' the hypothesis
(Robinson, 1951)

grounded theory which involves the generation of analytical categories and their dimensions, and the identification of relationships between them. The process of data collection and conceptualisation continues until categories and relationships are 'saturated', that is new data do not add to the developing theory (Glaser and Strauss, 1967; Strauss and Corbin, 1998)

policy and evaluation analysis where analysis is targeted towards providing 'answers' about the contexts for social policies and programmes and the effectiveness of their delivery and impact (Ritchie and Spencer, 1994).


Ritchie, J., Lewis, J., Nicholls, C. M., & Ormston, R. (Eds.). (2013). Qualitative research practice: A guide for social science students and researchers. Sage.

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