Analytical moves

In an earlier post I discussed some of the thinking behind the analytical process I was leaning towards; much of that made it into an earlier draft of the thesis. Feedback from my supervisors pointed out that detail on how I actually proceeded through the analysis was rather thin. Any reader (examiner!) would therefore not be clear about the steps I took … and therefore my thesis fails one of the characteristics I set for its integrity – that of transparency.  I’ll now attempt to set out the analytical moves I made in a little more detail.

Analysis was a multi-stage process, although not one which proceeded linearly from start to finish. Instead it involved a series of back and forth iterations moving between and across the different data sources. As data offer themselves either as words participants deliver during interviews, tweets that appear through observation, or blog posts at the end of hyperlinks, analytical seeds begin to germinate during this period of familiarisation.

The second stage of analysis began when I later revisited the data. This involved a process of ‘data walking’ (Eakle, 2007) in which I explored the data ‘as if you were an open and receptive traveller in a new and unknown territory that you want to make familiar before designing an itinerary.’ This seemed particularly appropriate in a flânographie and involved me reading and rereading transcripts, blog posts, tweets and tweet exchanges, highlighting phrases and sections which struck me as interesting, remarkable or important in helping to answer ‘what is going on here?’ This was not a process of data reduction or distillation, but as Eakle proposed, ‘data walking is an expansive means that avoids closure.’

The third stage also involved rereading the data, but this time expanded them by adding comments, annotations and appending memos. Transcripts or blog posts viewed by word processor or PDF reader, and could be annotated using the integrated commenting features. As discussed in section x, tweets or brief exchanges of tweets were stored in MindView which had its own tools for appending comments on or adding memos to nodes, as I discussed in this post. In this stage I was adding my impressions and reflections alongside those made by participants.

Although I had decided against using NVivo for coding, it nevertheless proved a useful single location in which transcriptions, observational notes, tweet exchanges and blog posts could be stored. The search, query and retrieval features meant that emerging ideas could be explored more easily across different data sources and consequently allow connections and links to be made between data, comments and memos. In addition, I was also able to bring all my comments from across all data sources together and export them in a single document (which I’ll add to an Appendix). I now had the wherewithal to read individual or multiple data sources, together with or apart from my appended comments. With all the data or comments easily accessible, I was able to much more easily read the data diffractively through the concepts of assemblage, multiplicity and fluidity, or indeed through the ideas I was beginning to develop.

I also employed a supplementary analytical process when attempting to make sense of the data in different ways and through different perspectives. Composing visualisations involved a similar process for me, to that which creating mind maps did for Reason (2010) “this process places a structure onto the material – it makes sense of the material in a way that is a mixture of finding sense from within and imposing it from without.” Less about finding a way to present the data and more about visualisation as a ‘thinking tool,’ finding ways to visualise the data allowed me to become more intimate with them.

Although these details are not attempting to satisfy the more positivist-leaning criterion of enabling replicability, they should nevertheless make it clear that I conducted a ‘rigorous’ study. Is there enough here to convince you of that? If not, what else would you like to see?

Eakle, A. J. (2007). Literacy spaces of a christian faith‐based school. Reading Research Quarterly, 42(4), 472-510.
Reason, M. (2010). Working paper #16: Mind maps, presentational knowledge and the dissemination of qualitative research. Retrieved from http://eprints.ncrm.ac.uk/1577/

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