Conducting qualitative data analysis can be challenging and sometimes completely overwhelming. Researchers, when faced with endless transcriptions of discussion groups, interviews and workshops can find themselves literally drowning in data.

In this article, we offer you a life-raft with our 6 top tips:

1: Plan, plan, plan – think about the analysis process right at the start of the project. What are the hypotheses relating to the research objectives – what do you expect to find? Who is going to do the research fieldwork – will there be several of you so that you can brainstorm findings? How will the analysis actually be conducted – will you be coding or not? Will you be using any software?

2: Think ‘big picture’ and tell the story – were your initial hypotheses proved or disproved? Create a compelling narrative by having a brainstorming session with the researchers (and with the research’s end-user if they want to be involved). Be careful not to discount any findings that don’t neatly fit into your original hypotheses.

3: Ensure that the findings are grounded in what participants say – always be thinking about how you can demonstrate where the evidence is for a particular finding. Bear in mind that it is easy to be swayed by one participant who was more articulate and passionate than others, who were more reticent, but still had useful things to say.

4: Have a systematic approach to analysis – for example, a matrix grid approach is a useful way of ensuring a robust approach which enables easy cross-referencing across groups or individual interviews. This matrix can be an additional output that can be shared with the research end-user.

5: Don’t include everything that might be interesting – continually relate back to the research objectives and only include points that are genuinely insightful and relevant.

6: Think about the implications of the findings – a good researcher goes beyond the initial findings to help interpret the findings and think about what it means for the research end-user.

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