Qualitative Analysis: Now you have data, what do you do with it?


This design memo describes an in-class assignment where students are given data from a real research project and asked to code answers to open ended questions. The purpose of the exercise is to give students firsthand experience at making coding decisions within the context of a research question.

What is the strategy?

Using the attached data and assignment, students are tasked with coding answers using grounded theory described in Creswell 2013 [1]. After solo coding and answering some methodological questions, students will reconvene for discussion and review.

Why should I use it?

This strategy provides students the opportunity to practice the skills learned in the classroom and the experience of making coding decisions. Some of the most important aspects of qualitative analysis involve deciding what information is important and how to categorize or interpret that information. Different researchers, especially from different backgrounds or fields, may approach and analyze coding very differently. This activity is designed to highlight how even a simple and short study can be interpreted and organized differently by different researchers. The important take away for students is how to achieve analytical rigor, understanding that no one answer is correct or inevitable. 

How do these tasks fit into my class?  How long will they take?

This task is best suited for applying analytical skills. It would fit into a syllabus after explanation of coding and grounded theory. This strategy uses both in-class and outside of class time. I recommend giving at least a week for students to code on their own and at least 30 minutes for group and classroom level discussion.

Should I do these problems in groups?  How big?  Who chooses them?

For the in-class portion of the strategy I recommend allocating 15 to 20 minutes for small group (3-5 students) discussion about coding followed by 10 to 15 minutes of classroom level review for consensus.

What do I need to explain to my students about this new classroom activity?

This activity does not explain qualitative coding methods, but provides a practical example for students to apply and test their abilities.  It is assumed that at the time of assignment, coding analysis and grounded theory have already been covered in the curriculum. Most information regarding the specifics of the example study are including in the attached assignment sheets.

[1] Creswell, J. W. (2013). Research design: Quantitative, qualitative, and mixed methods approaches (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. ISBN: 978-1452226101

Example of the assignment