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What is Qualitative Data?

Qualitative data is non-numerical data that is produced from qualitative research methods. Qualitative data differs from quantitative data in that the data is descriptive and depicts qualities or characteristics, whereas quantitative data is numerical.

Qualitative Research Methods

Common qualitative research methods in extension may include:

  • Observations: recording what you have seen, heard, or encountered in detailed field notes.
  • Interviews: asking people questions in one-on-one conversations.
  • Focus Groups: asking questions and generating discussion among a group of people.
  • Open-ended Surveys: an electronic survey using questions that allow respondents to answer any way they wish, which may provide additional insight beyond a closed-ended questionnaire.

Analyzing Qualitative Data

Typically, there are five steps involved in qualitative data analysis:

  1. Preparing and organizing data: this step may involve typing field notes, transcribing interviews, or sorting and organizing open-ended survey responses using an excel file.
  2. Reviewing and exploring data: this involves reviewing your data for any potential patterns or repeated themes.
  3. Developing a data coding system: after reviewing your data for potential patterns and utilizing your existing knowledge on the topic, establish a set of codes you can apply to categorize your data.
  4. Assign codes to the data: this typically involves reviewing each participant's responses and tagging them with codes in a spreadsheet. You can create new codes as needed as you go through your data.
  5. Identify recurring themes: once the data has been coded, you can go through and link codes together into cohesive, overarching themes.

Training & Resources

View the presentation by Dr. Richie Roberts on Basics of Qualitative Coding.

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