Fair warning – this is again very much just a post for me and is more about how I store my notes to search later than publicly explaining this highly regarded book about qual data analysis.
On first glance at this chapter, I thought it was going to be one that I could skim very quickly before getting on to the meatier next chapters that outline the many many different approaches that one can take to coding qualitative data. A big chunk seemed to be centred around analysing images, which is not remotely on my radar.
Once again, I was wrong. In a handful of pages about writing analytic memos, the other shoe in this entire process seems to have dropped. We have the process of coding the text and here we have a range of approaches that I can take to making sense of it – the analysis – as part of working towards some conclusions.
More than anything in my research, I have struggled with my theoretical lens and how this aligns with the questions that I am asking and the data that I am collecting. (Clearly it has helped shape this process in some ways but I have never been overly comfortable about limiting my exploration to the boundaries of the world that the theoreticians have laid out).
Saldaña seems to lean in to the Grounded Theory approach to things – essentially having a strong methodological approach to interrogating the data that leads you to your own theories. Given that I am mixing methods, with a detailed quant survey and my qual interviews, I’m not sure how this might work for me but I think it might be something that I need to explore further.
The other breakthrough (or part breakthrough) in thinking came from something that turns out not to be rooted in specific theory at all but which Saldaña and colleagues have concocted from a broader understanding of ideas in this sociological space. (More of this shortly)
Anyway so these are my notes as I read this chapter – a big chunk includes actions for myself to take.
“Analytic memo writing documents reflections on your coding processes and code choices; how the process of enquiry is taking shape and the emergent patterns, categories and subcategories, themes and concepts in your data, all leading toward theory” (P.44)
Analytic memos are comparable to researcher journal entries or blogs – brain dump about participants, phenomena and process under investigation
Should be concurrent with coding – it is about sense making so it doesn’t need to be written formally.
Add dates to them to track the evolution of my thinking
Write a new memo anytime something significant comes to mind about the coding or analysis of data. Create a new section in Scrivener for this
There are a number (12) of different kinds of memos – I think I will create subfolders for each of these and set up an A-L numbering system (e.g. E5) along with dates.
A) Reflect on and write about how you personally relate to the participant or phenomenon
B) Reflect on and write about your code choices and their operational definitions
[Did I put my survey 1 analyses into Scrivener?]
C) Reflection on participants routines, rituals, rules, roles and relationships
It is hard to understate how big an impact this approach had on me as I read it. My broad theoretical framework to date has been Social Practice Theory, which also touches a lot of the things that people do. I have always felt that this didn’t adequately balance with the impact of doings on relationships, so seeing this got me excited that there was a better suited theoretical lens to explore. Saldaña mentions Social Action nearby this list and references a bigger discussion of the 5 Rs in another book.
I actually emailed Saldaña and got a response back in under 2 hours. (I do love the scholarly community at times) – as it turns out, there isn’t a formal theory that the 5 Rs come from – it is more just an interpretation of a range of concepts in the sociological field – but I might look for a way to draw on this regardless as it feels so much more like what I need than anything else that I have seen so far in the theory space.
“Routines are those repetitive and sometimes mundane matters human do for the business of daily working and living. Rituals are significant actions and events interpreted to hold special meaning for the participant. Rules, broadly, refer to socialised behaviour and the parameters of conduct empower or restrict human action. Roles (parent, favored son, victim etc) refer to the personas we assume or attribute to others and the characteristic qualities that compose one’s identity and perceived status. Relationships refer to the forms of reactions and interactions of people in their roles as they undertake their routines and rituals through frames of rules” (p.47)
D) Reflect on and write about emergent patterns, categories, themes, concepts and assertions
(As part of understanding and tracking my thinking in developing them)
This includes comparison of things that I am seeing between interviewees – more overview thinking
E) Reflect on and write about the possible networks and processes (links, connections, overlaps, flows) among the codes, patterns, categories, themes, concepts and assertions
– Interpreting how individual components of the study weave together
– Consider making Scapple maps of relationships between concepts – hierarchies, chronological flows, influences and affects
F) Reflect on and write about an emergent or existing theory
How my observations might be generalised or applied to other populations
Set up subfolders in Scrivener in the Analytic Memos folder to capture all of these varieties. Write an initial memo in each before the analysis to capture my assumptions and understanding to date.
G) Reflect on and write about any problems with the study
– can raise provocative questions for further research or just help untangle things
H) Reflect on and write about any personal or ethical dilemmas with the study
– Am I seeing things that counter my values or belief systems?
I) Reflect on and write about future directions for the study
– Is there where I explore the things that I am currently trying out in TELedvisors to solve problems that I believe exist in this space?
– What are the missing elements that I am uncovering or the additional data that is needed?
J) Reflect on and write about the analytic memos generated thus far (meta-memos)
– General sense checking on the progress these memos represent
– Are these memos like unpublished blog posts? Can/should I transfer my previous blog posts or reflective notes from prior analysis here? (Should I separate survey and interview analysis? Where best to keep the survey 1 reflections?)
K) Reflect on and write about tentative answers to your study’s research questions
-To keep on target and on track
L) Reflect on and write about the final report for the study
– In some ways this can become early drafts of chunks for the thesis
– Developing thinking about the thesis structure
Analytical memos can serve as important additional sources of codes and categories
“Open” coding, which I have been talking about with Jess, is the approach now referred to as “Initial” coding in this book. This can be part of Grounded Theory coding in the first pass, with maybe Axial coding in the second?
Saldaña says 15 interviews was sufficient for him (p.55)
First stage coding methods – InVivo | Process | Initial – split the data into individually coded segments
Second stage/cycle methods – Focused | Axial | Theoretical – compare and reorganise codes into categories, priorities these categories into “axis” categories that other categories orbit around and then synthesise them to formulate a central or core category that becomes the foundation for explication of a grounded theory
Big question for me to consider – Is Grounded Theory an approach for me to consider given that I’m not entirely sold with my existing lenses? The fact that I’m doing mixed methods – with quant surveys – seems to count against this but maybe I can justify some kind of Frankensteining of the whole thing??
“It is memo-writing that is the engine of Grounded Theory, not coding” P.55 (quote via Gordon-Finlayson)
“Categories also have properties and dimensions- variable qualities that display the range of distribution within similarly coded data” P.55
If I do go down the GT path, this looks like a handy map p.56
Part of me wishes that I had read this book 6+ years ago when it was initially recommended to me by Inger Mewburn but to be honest, I don’t think I was ready for it then. Research certainly seems a little daunting as a result of reading it now though.