What Is a Qualitative Data Analysis?

Qualitative data analysis (QDA) refers to a range of various processes and procedures that help determine the importance of qualitative data to form explanations, understanding, or interpretations of information from qualitative research. Qualitative data analysis usually stems from an interpretative philosophy, and the idea is to examine the meaningful and representative content of qualitative data. It aims to make reason of rich, diverse, and non-numeric data from research and comprehensive investigations. In qualitative data analysis, interpreting data comes as a whole through a combined and composite unit. This type of data analysis requires a responsive, inductive, direct, and systematic approach, ensuring a balance between science and impeccable quality. It is also worth noting that qualitative data analysis currently includes various sources of information, including narrative, textual, and visual data for analysis.

According to the study by Stefan Loenhart entitled About Statistical Analysis of Qualitative Survey Data, in modern times, there is a significant increase in the need to evaluate data and information, more so on qualitative content from survey responses. There is a need to establish a methodical approach that consistently transforms qualitative data into quantitative forms to utilize mathematical and statistical methods to receive reliable interpretations and insights to make sound decisions.

Components of Qualitative Data Analysis

The following information details the components of qualitative data analysis. Researches utilize these elements for data analysis processes. Remember that the information duly overlaps with one another, and rather than a sequential completion, it happens concurrently. Most researchers use all of these components as they need comprehensive information to satisfy conclusions and develop new ones. As the data are complex, methods for gathering are from interviews, focus groups, or thorough observations.

Data Archiving: The retrieval of data is one of the most critical aspects of data analysis, whether qualitative or quantitative data analysis. In handling simple data, researchers need not revisit principal information from individual respondents, especially if researchers manage data tracking spreadsheets. However, if data comes from personal interviews, observations, and focus groups, there is a need to look back on initial data. It is necessary to retrieve data files easily, whether through written reports, computer collection, or recorded media.Case or Response Exploration: It is necessary to investigate and secure all necessary information related to each case and response by respondents for qualitative data analysis. Researchers use three effective processes, namely writing notes, topic coding, and analytic coding. Memos provide introductory comments to data and the initial attempt to understand and scrutinize current information. It is also an effective tool for the entire data analysis process. Memos also take on various forms, including personal questions, related statements and phrases, comments, and initial interpretations of responses. Topic and analytic coding go hand-in-hand. Through topic coding, you group information according to particular topics, and these are determined through research questions and reflected in research instruments. In analytic coding, the focus is on interpreting the data.Similarity Findings: A researcher’s objective in qualitative data analysis is to find commonalities and differences between the cases and respondents. Two procedures that researchers often use are finding themes and creating categories. The first approach is to find similar themes through the topic and analytical coding processes. When it comes to creating categories, the responses and information from cases and respondents collapse into groups, similar to statistical analysis. It is worth noting that classification in one category does not correlate to classification in another. Also, these categories tend to change during the data analysis process, including their definition and characteristics, as more cases and responses are added.Modeling: Researchers also extend to exploring the relationship of characteristics and categories of responses, similar to cluster analysis. Through the modeling section, researchers look for co-varying characteristics of responses in various categories and concentrate on identifying similarities and differences. Utilize case comparisons after the addition of four to five cases to the database.Understanding and Explaining: Upon understanding the data you have, it is also advisable to explain. Explain the identified relationships in the data analysis through finding synthesis and understanding differences. Through the two steps, you can interpret and explain the data in a bigger picture, in a single path, through the eyes of another person, and common language.Validity and Reliability: For a final check, researchers then maintain a coherent record or a log trail of all activities of the data analysis process, showing consistency and transparency. Triangulation, response checking, and coder validation are also aspects within the validity and reliability section.

How To Proceed With Qualitative Data Analysis

As mentioned earlier, there are different methods of collecting qualitative data. Whether the data you have comes from a one-on-one interview, a focus group, observation, case study, or survey questionnaires, the steps below help you have a robust and comprehensive qualitative data analysis.

Step 1: Arrange the Collected Data

After collecting all the necessary data, it is usually without structure and makes little sense. As a researcher, you must transcribe the data you have first and foremost and arrange your data systematically. To do this, convert all the data you have into a text format, either through importing or manually inputting it into a system spreadsheet. You can also make use of other qualitative data analysis tools for your convenience.

Step 2: Get to Organizing Your Data

After arranging your data, immediately begin organizing and sorting it. There is still a lot of information that needs sorting, and the best way to do that is to take a step back and view the research objectives, setting the data according to the research questions. Incorporate your research objectives into a table for a visual to help you see which information goes where.

Step 3: Incorporate Proper Codes and Functions to Collected Data

Remember that setting codes to accompany your qualitative data makes it easier for you in the long run. Coding compresses your information through categorizing and assigning properties and patterns to the acquired data. It is an important step to qualitative data analysis to acquire various theories from relevant research findings. After, you can start to build models to obtain insight from the data to make coherent and informed decisions.

Step 4: Validation of Data

Validating your data is a critical step into successful research. Your data must be free from fallacies, and that this step is recurring throughout the entirety of the data analysis process. Data validation has two sides. The validation through the accuracy of the research design and methods, and research reliability, corresponding to the extent of producing consistent and accurate data representations.

Step 5: Set Up a Conclusion for Your Data

To conclude your data finding, set up a systematic representation of the findings through a research or data analysis report. In the report, it must clearly indicate the methods the researchers used and the study’s limitations. It must also include recommendations or assumptions in related areas for future research.


What are the five qualitative approaches?

The five qualitative approaches are methods for drafting qualitative research with the focus on the traditional qualitative research methods. These research methods include biographies or narratives, phenomenology, ground theory, ethnography, and case studies.

What are examples of qualitative data?

Examples of qualitative data include information about sex, name, country of origin, citizenship, and race, among others. A more specific example of qualitative data is evaluating and assessing written essays while giving comments and corrections regarding grammar, tense, spelling, tone, punctuation, and consistency.

What is the focus of qualitative data analysis?

Qualitative data collection is investigative and involves in-depth analysis and explorative research. The main focus of the data collection methods is to gain insight, reasoning, behaviors, and motivations. That is why qualitative research dwells deeper in terms of research processes.

Qualitative data analysis allows researchers to determine the recurrence of habits and characteristics of individuals or groups. Market researchers use this method to answer questions regarding their industries, including their consumer market. It also helps them to address problems and issues, identifying the areas they need to focus on to resolve them. Industries, companies, and organizations need to adapt qualitative data analysis methods into their management. In the article, you will find qualitative data analysis samples you can use for your company to start a deeper understanding of your consumer market and employees. Make sure to view and download them for your convenience!