29 June 2008

High quality "qualitative"

I found a wonderful site today while looking for an NVivo training or user group in Melbourne.

Lyn Richards as a site on qualitative research that has links and training documents galore!

It seems Lyn (based at RMIT in Melbourne) took part in the development of NVivo and sold her share in QSR International in 2006 (the company that sells NVivo). She points to a qualitative research forum and it is a group of people that I have not been connected with before and it's lovely to hear people moaning and complaining about some of the issues I have been struggling with.

The big plus for me is that she has written and published online two NVivo tutorials for free on her website. Brilliant! Just what I needed at this point in my study as the analysis really begins in ernest. They are:
  1. Up and Running in NVivo 7 - a post-workshop handbook, and
  2. Ten teach yourself tutorials for NVivo 7 - a 10MB PDF download

She has published 2 papers that touch on the subject of coding fetishism:
  • Richards, Lyn, "Closeness to Data: The Changing Goals of Qualitative Data handling", Qualitative Health Research, vol 8, no 3, pp. 319-328, 1998.
  • Richards, Lyn, "Data Alive! The thinking behind NVivo Qualitative Health Research", Vol. 9, No. 3, 1999)

Lyn's 5 rules for coding are:

  1. Never think in terms of the final allocation of text to a "right" code. Make coding thinking-aloud, a way of expressing what you think is going on here. It's tentative, exploratory, as long as it needs to be. So work with your nodes a lot, redefining, rethinking, memoing, moving around and merging.
  2. Never think of coding as one stage - it takes you to a node browser that allows you to look at all the material coded at a node and review it, rethink, recode. This means early on especially you can do broad brush coding, gathering material in broad headings, then going to the node to code on more finely into subtler dimensions of the concept.
  3. Never allow myself to do uninterrupted coding for more than an hour. Because no qualitative thinking can be expressed solely in coding for that long.
  4. Use free nodes freely - a friend of mine invented the lovely term nodeworthy. If it's nodeworthy, (that means sounds like it might need to be a category in my thinking) don't wreck you head worrying where it goes, just make it a free node. Drop out of coding later to play with the free nodes and locate them in groups or merge them (or delete if it wasn't really nodeworthy! How do you know? Strauss used to say, "If it matters, it'll come up again.")
  5. If it's a thought, not an allocation to a known topic, don't code but annotate or memo.

Lyn is a member of the Qualitative Interest Group @ RMIT which is meeting tomorrow in the city and I plan to attend. Hopefully I will get some advice on what the next step is after I have transcribed and coded everything. With a bit of luck I will get to meet Lyn too.

I read at one point that memos should be at least twice as large as the transcriptions! OUCH!!! I have more than 20,000 words of transcriptions!!! That is a huge goal and way beyond my resources for this project. I do have to up the pace on my memos though, especially in terms of node memos that detail my thinking on each of the topics, why I want to find and why I split them up that way. Back to work!

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