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Hello everyone,

For the kick off I would like to share an article from Nicole M. Deterding and Mary C. Waters published in Sociological Methods and Research.

Title : Flexible Coding of In-depth Interviews: A Twenty-first-century Approach


In their study Deterding & Waters argue that common practices of interview studies deviate from grounded theory framework in various ways. Based on their analysis on published articles, they suggests ways to improve research quality via outlining steps in data organization and analysis to efficiently using CAQDAS.

Please feel free to share your opinion.




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Good idea to highlight papers that have utilised CAQDAS, and qualitative research more generally, with a focus on improving research practices!

While I think that the procedure, as put forward by the authors, has merit for general QDA, I found the motivation for the described procedure a little confusing. I get that the authors found many people referencing grounded theory did not stick to the required grounded theory procedures, but this is an argument against the practice of incorrectly citing what you're doing rather than a justification in itself for new procedures. I think the authors should have pointed out that what many researchers are completing is QDA and not grounded theory. This is what Glaser has railed against for ages and is why "the oftcited grounded theory framework poorly fits many features of contemporary sociological interview studies". I guess I felt that throughout the article there was a sense that grounded theory procedures were being presented as inadequate in some way when, in fact, it is simply that most people are conducting thematic analysis and not grounded theory. This is where it became a little more murky for me, with the below quotes as example:

“Based on our informal discussions with contemporary researchers using large-scale interview data, it appears that few actually implement the unfolding data collection suggested by a grounded theory approach: theoretical sampling toward conceptual saturation”

“It may be the case that a priori categories actually have no importance to respondents”

As a result, they are not conducting grounded theory. The constant references to grounded theory made it feel as though the proposed approach was being presented as an alternative approach when conducting grounded theory, rather than an alternative approach to general QDA.

The proposed approach also seems to have a more positivist/scientific flavour too (not necessarily a problem but should be acknowledged). With a view to construct validity and a priority on output over any truly 'grounded' theory-one based on constant comparative analysis that is fit-for-purpose:

"Without a clear procedure for validating that the argued relationships are truly grounded in the data, interview researchers risk accusations that their work is not rigorous"

"The process of reducing data down from full transcripts, to indexed extracts, and finally to grouped analytic codes allowed her to judge whether she had applied uniform qualitative criteria across the sample, increasing reliability or construct validity"

"we suggest approaching the application of analytic codes one research question or paper at a time"

“Analytic codes represent the concepts to explore in a single paper or book chapter and integrate emergent findings with what is known from the literature”

Additionally, I'm not sure that the proposed approach doesn't undermine the claim that what is developed in the end is actually an emergent theory. Where data is immediately aligned to preconceived notions, not subjected to constant comparison, and where a priori assumptions or themes are dealt with in a way that takes priority over what is important to participants (and participants' own meanings), you run the risk of findings being labelled as 'ventriloquism'.

Finally, while the authors did acknowledge research concerning the (lack of) additional utility of larger samples (more than ~15) in qualitative research such as grounded theory, they still seemed to use the ubiquity of larger samples as justification for procedural change:

“Based on our own experience working with large-scale interview data, we outlined a three-step process that flips traditional grounded theory on its head to take advantage of modern QDA technology”

Again, why invoke grounded theory when it isn't what you're actually conducting?

Ultimately, I can see the utility in the proposed procedure as a form of QDA that would be well suited to mining data for themes in support of a particular hypothesis. For hypothesis creation (a la grounded theory) it does not seem as relevant. As such, the constant referencing of grounded theory, along with the limited application of its procedures within the bulk of qualitative research, represented a distraction from the presentation of an otherwise potentially useful approach.

Hope this doesn't seem like too much of a rant! Looking forward to more content.


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