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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: June 2018

12 - Analysing qualitative data from information organizations

Summary

FOCUS QUESTIONS

• What is involved in the process of analysing qualitative data from information organizations?

• How does the researcher achieve depth of understanding when analysing data?

• What are the roles of, and differences between, data analysis and data interpretation?

• How can computer technology assist in the analysis of qualitative data?

This chapter provides an overview of qualitative data analysis, as well as strategies for analysing and reformatting large bodies of data. Information organizations involve complex social processes; qualitative research methods are themselves complex – and for this reason are well suited to dealing with such organizations. As a result, qualitative research in information organizations frequently results in enormous quantities of rich and complex data that must be analysed and descriptively reconstructed. The greatest challenge in a qualitative study is ‘not to get data, but to get rid of it!’

Before beginning, however, it is worth indicating that the carefully structured approach that we discuss here is not always necessary. For some qualitative investigators, even quite inexperienced ones, it is entirely feasible that data analysis may be simply a matter of finding a quiet corner, spreading out the field notes without a laptop in sight, and writing about what was seen and heard. Many times we know instinctively, from our sensitive immersion in the particular culture being investigated, what needs to be said, and how.

Sometimes this approach works very well, as it has for generations of researchers. More often than not, however, you will need to take a more structured, conscious approach to your data analysis. In this case, you may find computer software an invaluable aid. If your data prove too great in quantity or too complex to carry in your head, this chapter suggests several approaches to making sense of it.

Overview of data analysis

Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretative one in search of meaning.