Qualitative analysis of interview data: A step-by-step guide

Qualitative analysis of interview data, a basic step by step guide. Part one, a description of each step. Step one: reading the transcripts. Quickly browse through all the transcripts as a whole. Then, make notes about your first impressions. Re-read the transcripts again one by one very carefully, line by line. Step two: start labeling relevant pieces, such as words, phrases, sentences or sections in the transcripts. And these labels can be about actions, they can be about activities or whatever you think is relevant. And this process is called coding or sometimes it’s referred to as indexing. Here’s an example of an interview transcript that has been coded. So, how do I know what to code, you might wonder. Well, you might decide that something is relevant to code because it is repeated in several places or perhaps it’s something that surprises you or it might be that the interview him or herself explicitly states that this is important or you have read about something similar in previously published reports, for example, in scientific articles, or it reminds you of a theory or a concept, or for some other reason that you think is relevant. You can use pre-conceived theories and concepts or you can be more open-minded. You can aim for a description of things that are superficial or you can code and aim for a conceptualization of underlying patterns. It’s up to you. It’s your study and your choice of methodology. You are the interpreter and these phenomena are highlighted because you think they are important. Just make sure that you tell your reader about your methodology and the choices that you make and you do that under the heading method. In your coding, try to be unbiased and stay close to the data, i.e. the transcripts. Don’t hesitate to code plenty of phenomena. You can have lots of codes, even hundreds. Step three: decide which codes are the most important and create categories by bringing several codes together. Go through all the codes created in the previous step. Read them with a pen in your hand. You can create new codes if you want to by combining two or more codes. You don’t have to use all the codes that you created in the previous step. In fact, many of these initial codes can now be dropped. Keep the codes that you think are important and group them together in the way that you want. Create categories, in other words. You can call them themes if you want to. Here’s an example. I’ve grouped these codes together and created a category. Here’s a second example and here’s a third one. The categories don’t have to be of the same type. They can be about objects, processes, differences, or whatever. Be unbiased and creative and try to be open- minded. Your work now, compared to the previous steps, is on a more general, abstract level. You are conceptualizing your data. Step four: label categories and decide which are the most relevant and keep those and also decide how they are connected to each other. Label the categories. Well, in my example, I had three different categories. I’m going to call the first one adaptation and the second one is seeking information and the third one is problem solving. At this stage, I should also describe the connection between these categories. These categories and the connections are the main results of my study. It’s the core of the whole study, at least when it comes to the results. It is new knowledge about the world from the perspective of the participants in my study. Step five: here are some options. You could, if you want to, decide if there’s a hierarchy among the categories. You could also decide if one category is more important than the others and you could also draw a figure if you want to. Here’s an example that I put together. Step six: it’s time to write up your results. Under the heading results, describe the categories and how they are connected. Use a neutral voice and don’t interpret your results. Under the heading discussion, write out your interpretations and discuss your results. Interpret the results in light of, for example, results from similar, previous studies published in relevant scientific journals in your field, theories or concepts from your field, or other relevant aspects. Part two: ending remarks. I have assumed that your task is to make sense of a lot of unstructured data, i.e. that you have qualitative data in the form of interview transcripts. However, remember that most of the things that I have said in this tutorial are basic and also apply to qualitative analysis in general. What does that mean? Well, it means that you can use the steps described in this tutorial to analyze, for example, notes from participatory observations, documents, web pages, or other types of qualitative data. Suggested reading: Alan Bryman’s book ‘Social Research Methods’ together with Steinar Kvale’s and Svend Brinkmann’s book ‘InterViews’ are excellent for anyone who wants to dig in deeper and understand how to do qualitative interview research. Captions by GetTranscribed.com

100 Replies to “Qualitative analysis of interview data: A step-by-step guide

  1. The steps are clear and can be followed easily.L have been looking for the simple way to analyse my date but yours has given me a starting point thank you

  2. I teach action research at a graduate level. This is a very helpful resource for my students. Thank you for creating such a clear, brief explanation.

  3. I want to believe this is an inductive analysis as it is a general approach in analyzing a qualitative data. My question is, under which type of coding will this fall? Axial? Your swift comment will be appreciated as i have a defense tomorrow. Thank you.

  4. I am moving job roles [I hope] and having knowledge of Thematic Analysis is a key point for the new potential role. Thank you so much for this, my friend. 🙂

  5. This is very helpful Kent. I use it in one of my classes. I've probably shown it to a few hundred students at this point. Thank you.

  6. Thank you so much! I'm in the middle of the qualitative research of my Master thesis and this clear construction helps me get familiar with the steps I have to take!

  7. As a second-semester PhD student, I can say that this is very informative, useful, and easy to understand. Thank you, Dr. Löfgren!

  8. Kent, can you please explain a difference between thematic analysis and affinity diagram? It will be of great help to complete my master degree.

  9. Thank you Mr. Lofgren, I was actually searching for an apt one and its like I asked for a flower, you offered a garden, Thank you once again

  10. This is a fantastic video. Nice and concise and I like how it is broken down into steps. This is just what I needed.

  11. Thank you! Helpful video, but I am still a bit confused. You say that this is a basic guide for qualitative analysis of interview data, but it seems like it contains a thematic analysis as well (in step 3, create categories). Is this correctly understood? If yes, does that mean that qualitative analysis of interview data always contains a thematic analysis, except for narrative analysis as you mention in this video?

  12. Thank you so much for sharing this tutorial, Mr. Kent. It was crystal clear and easy to comprehend. All the best for you!

  13. Can we say We develop a scale after thematic Analysis, but before Pilot study?? As i am going to conduct a research for my thesis. I will do thematic Analysis, Then thems will be counvert into Scale items/scale. But I am not interesting to do pilot study for thesis work, Is that right or Should I go for Pilot study as well???? Plz give you valuable suggestions.

  14. You have helped to simplify what I already thought but doubted was legit. Ready to proceed with my analysis thanks to your invaluable help from your tutorial

  15. I'm currently working on my honors thesis and have completed my qualitative study, but was having trouble organizing my paper and feeling lost on where/how to include my interview data. It is 3AM, and though I'm tired and have a lot more to do than I thought, at least I will be confident that I am turning in a somewhat decent draft to my mentor soon. Thank you so much for your help!

  16. I would like to ask, can I link your step by step guide to braun and Clarke's thematic analysis?
    Thank you, Kent!

  17. You just made my day Sir! I am completing a Master Degree Program in Project Management at Karlstad University Sweden. After my interviews- i had lots of materials to code and was getting frustrated as i was not going to be able to use the Coding method. After this video- i am so motivated that i can do Coding as best as they come! A million thanks for making life easy for me

  18. Fantastic video – really helped me wrap my head around how to analyze interview data for a graduate school class project.

  19. Thank you so so much for this video, as a first year uni student i have been struggling with coding for weeks now.

  20. This has been the best tutorial video I have always needed! It worked, and I thank you so much! (liked & Subscribed).

  21. Thank you Kent, this makes it easier to understand research analysis. Thank you for spending the time to help people with their projects.

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