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Qualitative Analysis For Social Scientists: Simple Guide

Qualitative Analysis for Social Scientists

qualitative analysis for social scientistsQualitative analysis including chemistry qualitative analysis or qualitative risk analysis is used when researchers want to understand some aspect of social life from a different perspective. In the social sciences researchers like to understand why a person has a certain view and how that perspective was reached. Qualitative data is usually in words as opposed to numbers. Quantitative methods seek numerical data, and the answers to questions like how many or how much.

The method used will depend on what questions that researchers are seeking answers to. Qualitative research in social sciences would be used to investigate such things as:

  • Peoples experiences with something. If a service such as housing for low income families is being provided by an organization, they may want to know what participants in the program have experienced.
  • Understanding the perspective of a particular group. How does their view differ from that of another social group?
  • How experiences, attitudes and life circumstances affect needs and behaviors.

Designing a Research Protocol

A research protocol is basically a map of the research being done. It outlines what you will be doing, how you will do it and why. Research protocols have the following parts:

  • Aims and objectives – What you will do broken down into measurable objectives
  • Background – Why the question is important or relevant
  • Methods – Covers setting, participants, data collection and data analysis inc.
  • Ethical issues – Address any ethical issues
  • Resources – Cost of the research. Equipment, personnel etc
  • Timescale – How long it will take and key milestones
  • Dissemination/output – Types of reports and potential audience

Qualitative research methods for the social sciences include both data collection and analysis. There are times when qualitative methods may be used together with quantitative techniques. In many cases some preliminary research may be done using qualitative analysis. For social scientists this is a good method to decide if further quantitative research should be done.

Qualitative Data Criteria

Qualitative research in social sciences often makes use of interviews, focus groups and observations. Regardless of the qualitative method used , the aim is to produce results that are:

  • Reproducible– Somebody using the same topic guide should be able to generate similar results.
  • Systematic – The idea is to make sure data and sources aren’t selected just to match preexisting ideas.
  • Credible – The questions asked and the ways in which they are asked should produce results that can be considered valid with a degree of certainty
  • Transparent – Methods should be written up so that any reader can easily see how the data was collected and analyzed.

Qualitative Data Analysis

There are many different methods of qualitative analysis. For social scientists a thematic analysis is suitable for most applied projects. A thematic analysis looks across all data for reoccurring issues and identifies the main themes. A thematic analysis consists of the following stages:

  • Read and annotate transcripts – Preliminary observations are made here.
  • Identify themes
  • Develop a coding scheme
  • Code the data
  • Organize the data by code keywords

A narrative analysis may be done at the same time. Narrative context can be lost during the coding process, and a narrative analysis ensures the story isn’t lost.

The American Statistical Association is the largest of its type in the United States. One section is devoted to social statistics. For further information visit them at http://www.amstat.org/sections/ssoc/

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