My name is Susan Keskinen. I work for Ramsey County (Minnesota) Community Human Services as a Senior Program Evaluator. My evaluation projects are related to employment and supportive services provided to Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP) participants, Minnesota’s version of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program. I am the Communications Chair for the Minnesota Evaluation Association.
My biggest challenge with qualitative research has been the analysis of the data. I have developed the following process that enables me to do it systematically and effectively.
- Read the notes from three to five interviews and determine a preliminary set of themes.
- Create a ‘theme’ document in Word with each theme listed on a separate page.
- Create a ‘working’ copy of the notes from each interview in Word and give the text of each of those ‘working’ copies a unique color and/or style of font.
- Read each ‘working’ copy document and paste a comment related to a theme from the ‘working’ copy to the appropriate theme in the ‘theme’ document. (By using ‘delete’ and ‘paste’ instead of ‘copy’ and ‘paste’, you can keep track of the portion of an interview that you have not been able to attribute to any existing theme.)
- After going through all ‘working’ copy documents once, read the portions of the notes that did not fit into any preliminary theme and determine what additional themes to add. Add those themes to the ‘theme’ document and do Step 4 again.
The result is one Word document that lists all themes and the specific comments (in various colors and styles of font) related to each theme. The different types of font make it easy to count the number of unique people who gave a comment related to a theme. It is also easy to combine themes and know how it affects the number of individual comments.
If you want to analyze the data by different groups of interviewees, give all interview notes in a group the same color font but give each individual in that group a distinctly different style of font. As shown in the example below, five different people from three different groups (red, green and blue) gave comments about Communication.
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