Journal 5: Interview
Using the questions you developed for the Week 9 discussion, interview a classmate, colleague, family member, or friend. Code the results, and in at least one (1) paragraph reflect on what you learned about yourself while doing the interview. [Note: The process of coding is described in Chapter 9 of your textbook.]
This is the coding process: Get a sense of the whole. Read all the transcriptions carefully. Perhaps jot down some ideas as they come to mind as you read. Pick one document (i.e., one interview)—the most interesting one, the shortest, the one on the top of the pile. Go through it, asking yourself, “What is this about?” Do not think about the substance of the information but its underlying meaning. Write thoughts in the margin. When you have completed this task for several participants, make a list of all topics. Cluster together similar topics. Form these topics into columns, perhaps arrayed as major, unique, and leftover topics. Now take this list and go back to your data. Abbreviate the topics as codes and write the codes next to the appropriate segments of the text. Try this preliminary organizing scheme to see if new categories and codes emerge. Find the most descriptive wording for your topics and turn them into categories. Look for ways of reducing your total list of categories by grouping topics that relate to each other. Perhaps draw lines between your categories to show interrelationships. Make a final decision on the abbreviation for each category and alphabetize these codes. Assemble the data material belonging to each category in one place and perform a preliminary analysis. If necessary, recode your existing data. (pp. 142–149) In addition, give some attention to the types of codes to develop when analyzing a text transcript or a picture (or other type of visual object). I tend to think about codes as falling into three categories: • Codes on topics that readers would expect to find, based on the past literature and common sense. When studying bullying in the schools, I might code some segments as “attitudes toward oneself.” This code would be expected in a study about bullying in the schools.
• Codes that are surprising and that were not anticipated at the beginning of the study. In a study of leadership in nonprofit organizations, I might learn about the impact of geo-warming on the building of the organization and how this shapes the location and proximity of individuals to one another. Without going out to the building before the study begins and looking at it, I would not necessarily think about the codes of geo-warming and location of offices in my study of leadership. • Codes that are unusual, and that are, in and of themselves, of conceptual interest to readers. I will use one of the codes that we discovered in our qualitative study of a campus’ response to a gunman (Asmussen & Creswell, 1995). We did not anticipate the code “retriggering” to emerge in our study, and it surfaced from the perspective of a psychologist called into the campus to assess the response. The fact that individuals were reminded of past traumatic incidents—retriggering—prompted us to use the term as an important code and ultimately a theme in our analysis. One further issue about coding is whether the researcher should (a) develop codes only on the basis of the emerging information collected from participants, (b) use predetermined codes and then fit the data to them, or (c) use some combination of emerging and predetermined codes. The traditional approach in the social sciences is to allow the codes to emerge during the data analysis. In the health sciences, a popular approach is to use predetermined codes based on the theory being examined. In this case, the researchers might develop a qualitative codebook, a table that contains a list of predetermined codes that researchers use for coding the data. Guest and colleagues (2012) discussed and illustrated the use of codebooks in qualitative research. The intent of a codebook is to provide definitions for codes and to maximize coherence among codes—especially when multiple coders are involved. This codebook would provide a list of codes, a code label for each code, a brief definition of it, a full definition of it, information about when to use the code and when not to use it, and an example of a quote illustrating the code. This codebook can evolve and change during a study based on close analysis of the data when the researcher is not starting from an emerging code perspective. For researchers who have a distinct theory they want to test in their projects, I would recommend that a preliminary codebook be developed for coding the data and permit the codebook to develop and change based on the information learned during the data analysis. Step 4. Use the coding process to generate a description of the setting or people as well as categories or themes for analysis. Description involves a detailed rendering of information about people, places, or events in a setting. Researchers can generate codes for this description. This analysis is useful in designing detailed descriptions for case studies, ethnographies, and narrative research projects. Use the coding as well for generating a small number of themes or categories—perhaps five to seven themes for a research study. These themes are the ones that appear as major findings in qualitative studies and are often used as headings in the findings sections (or in the findings section of a dissertation or thesis) of studies. They should display multiple perspectives from individuals and be supported by diverse quotations and specific evidence. Beyond identifying the themes during the coding process, qualitative researchers can do much with themes to build additional layers of complex analysis. For example, researchers interconnect themes into a story line (as in narratives) or develop them into a theoretical model (as in grounded theory). Themes are analyzed for each individual case and across different cases (as in case studies) or shaped into a general description (as in phenomenology). Sophisticated qualitative studies go beyond description and theme identification and form complex theme connections. Step 5. Advance how the description and themes will be represented in the qualitative narrative. The most popular approach is to use a narrative passage to convey the findings of the analysis. This might be a discussion that mentions a chronology of events, the detailed discussion of several themes (complete with subthemes, specific illustrations, multiple perspectives from individuals, and quotations) or a discussion with interconnecting themes. Many qualitative researchers also use visuals, figures, or tables as adjuncts to the discussions. They present a process model (as in grounded theory), advance a drawing of the specific research site (as in ethnography), or convey descriptive information about each participant in a table (as in case studies and ethnographies). Step 6. A final step in data analysis involves making an interpretation in qualitative research of the findings or results. Asking, “What were the lessons learned?” captures the essence of this idea (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). These lessons could be the researcher’s personal interpretation, couched in the understanding that the inquirer brings to the study from a personal culture, history, and experiences. It could also be a meaning derived from a comparison of the findings with information gleaned from the literature or theories. In this way, authors suggest that the findings confirm past information or diverge from it. It can also suggest new questions that need to be asked—questions raised by the data and analysis that the inquirer had not foreseen earlier in the study. Ethnographers can end a study, Wolcott (1994) said, by stating further questions. The questioning approach is also used in transformative approaches to qualitative research. Moreover, when qualitative researchers use a theoretical lens, they can form interpretations that call for action agendas for reform and change. Researchers might describe how the narrative outcome will be compared with theories and the general literature on the topic. In many qualitative articles, researchers also discuss the literature at the end of the study (see the discussion in Chapter 2). Thus, interpretation in qualitative research can take many forms; be adapted for different types of designs; and be flexible to convey personal, research-based, and action meanings.
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