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Qualitative Data Analysis Using Atlasti Software Information Technology Essay

In this paper in the first place I give a brief review of different methods of data analyzing, then I write some words about Grounded Theory. The main part of my final report is devoted to the problem of interaction between interviewees and interviewers. Based on several interviews with China students studying in Germany I analyze connections between conversation’s participants. At the end of my work I give some practical advice about “ideal” behavior of interviewer.

As every sociologist knows there are two main types of scientific researches – quantitative and qualitative. Each type has own features, special approaches and methodology. If quantitative analysis as a rule based on a poll with a great number of participants, qualitative analysis is opposite, based on deep interviewers with a small number of respondents. There are some advantages and disadvantages in quantitative and qualitative approaches, but the aim of this report is not to observe them, I only want to designate the problem. In both cases we have deal with data and have to choose the method of data analysis (of course researchers can combine different methods – it depends on concrete project). Atlas.ti software is a program which gives us an opportunity to analyze qualitative data.

There are several types/approaches of qualitative researches: grounded theory, ethnography, phenomenology, life histories and conversational analysis (Strauss & Corbin, 2001: 19). But in this course we pay attention mainly on Grounded Theory. It is a theory which we can use in qualitative researches. Kathy C. Charmaz in the work “Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide Through Qualitative Analysis” compared objectivist and constructivist approaches in Grounded Theory. Charmaz wrote about it: “The process of coding produces certain tensions – between analytic insights and described events and between participants' worlds and professionals' meanings” (Charmaz, 2006: 47); “…making ‘discoveries’ about the worlds you study and pursuing these discoveries to construct an analysis is what grounded theory is about. Such discoveries reflect what you learn and how you conceptualize it.” (Charmaz, 2006: 48). So here the main problems are: how a researcher looks at the reality, what he/she describes as an important thing and non-significant, how he/she obtains necessary knowledge and interprets data.

Other authors Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin in their work “Basics of Qualitative Research: Grounded Theory Procedures and Techniques” [1] wrote about necessary practical skills for making qualitative research. Primarily among them we can find ability to analyze the situation critically, capacity for avoiding preconceptions, flair for receiving valid data and abstract thinking (Strauss & Corbin, 2001: 17). Also they said about debate with the problem of data interpretation. There are several points of view on this: some of researches consider that we have not to analyze data at all – in this case respondent is a carrier of veritable knowledge; other concentrate on full description of research questions (not on all information), and the third group of researchers are interested in theory building (Strauss & Corbin, 2001: 19-20). I think it’s an important issue as for each researcher as for each interviewer to choose an appropriate approach and to understand clearly what does researchers want to receive from respondents.

During this course I analyzed several interviewers with China students studying in Germany. The research questions of this project were different (the motivation for coming to Germany, key experiences in Germany, the relevance of personal networks [social contacts] in China and in Germany), but my question for analyzing was interactions between interviewees and interviewers. For analyzing data I used software Atlas.ti and the methodological procedures were coding and creating memos, quotations, notes, family codes, networks, links etc.

Interviewing is a very interesting but difficult process. How does it go off – successful or not – it depends on both sides: interviewer and respondent. In this case report I’m going to analyze 9 transcripts (interviews with Chinese students studying in Germany) focusing on interactions between interviewees and interviewers. I suppose that it’s important for this analysis to draw attention on several points in each interview: on the beginning and on the end of the interview, on the postscript, on the situation when interviewer explains to respondent about friend’s circle and on the reaction of the last, on the structure of conversation and on the changes from one question to another, on verbal and non-vernal signs from both sides (e.g. smile, laugh, deep breath etc) and maybe on other moments. Here I give some examples from several interviews and try to explain their importance.

As I said in the first paragraph the beginning of conversation is a very important part. In a short time interviewer has to make a nice impression and to win respondent’s favour to provide further informative interview. Firstly interviewer ought to introduce himself/herself and says several words about survey’s purposes.

Among these 9 transcripts there are two types of interview’s beginning: when interviewer briefly asks respondent about his/her name, age, place of birth, level of education, presence of brothers/sisters etc (in Russian similar questions is called “pasportichka” because of information like in main Russian document - passport); the other type applies to the situation when interviewer ask one or several connected open questions.

The first type of the beginning refers to the scheme “question-answer”, when in a short time interviewer receives lot facts from respondent. Andreas Witzel in his work “The Problem-Centered Interview” wrote about short questionnaire as an instrument to “collect data on social characteristics (age, parents' occupation, education etc.)”; he considered that “the interview which follows aims to negotiate a subjective view and is thus not obstructed by questions structured by a question-answer scheme” (Witzel, 2000: 4). The examples of this type we can see in the following interviews: 14, 15 and 16. The preference of “answer-question” scheme is that we recognize a lot at once and then we can use this information for construction further conversation. But the main defect of this kind of the beginning is that respondent decides that he/she ought to answer in the same way later.

The second type refers to open questions, when interviewer wants to receive a deep answer from some theme (see examples: 01, 09, 05, 11, 12 and 13). Among these transcripts this type is more widespread than the first one. In my opinion in this case interviewer wins respondent’s favour more successful than in case “answer-question”.

I think that both types have advantages and disadvantages, and interviewer ought to decide singly which type he/she can use in each interview, in depends on the concrete situation. Witzel advises to combine both types: “the information gathered thereby <answer-question> and especially in combination with open-ended questions can facilitate starting a conversation” (Witzel, 2000: 4).

Now I want to turn your attention to another important point: impact of the common background and similar social situation of interviewees and interviewers. Common background (it can be such social characteristics as sex, age, level of education, social position, and even common interests) helps to overcome communicative barrier between participants of conversation and to understand respondent’s opinion by interviewer. But interviewer must remember about his/her rule in this situation – to ask and to keep up the conversation, not to answer and not to thrust his/her opinion on respondent. A good example to look at influence of the common background is the interview № 01. In this example both interviewees and interviewers are student (“Also, as a master student, I’m also a master student here, I know there’s lot of courses every week” <remark from interviewer> - 01: 256-257); both from the only-child family (“Coz we all are the only child our family, it’s also a important reason why the Chinese students come back” <remark from interviewer> - 01: 457-458). These factors became a key for interviewer’s understanding of respondent’s position, and in some cases their interview turned into informal talk, where interviewer also gave own opinion (01: 556-583). I suppose it’s necessary to give a support for respondent, but interviewer does not say a lot about his/her personality, doesn’t confuse the interlocutor.

Interviewer of course impacts on the respondent and an analyst ought to take into account this influence (it can be preconceived or not, subjective or objective, positive or negative etc). I think that the postscript can help us to estimate it. In postscript interviewer as a rule gives some notes about entourage and also additional information about respondent. Through his/her words the analyst should catch interviewer’s attitude to respondent and try to understand a link between interviewer’s influence on respondent’s answers. For example in the interview №14 interviewer wrote in the postscript his own opinion about respondent: “I think his experience living in Germany is very important for the transformation of his way of thinking, though he has not realized it” (14: 681-683). Maybe it’s not perfect example illustrating interview’s attitude towards respondent, but here we can see interview’s reflection after conversation (maybe condemned opinion – not realized it).

During interviewing interviewer can behave in different ways: he/she can smile, laugh, say something like “yes” – e.g. “aha” / “ygy”, ask to repeat something, put smt in doubt, ask to specify smt etc. All of these direct to support interlocutor and to receive or clarify useful information. Let’s review some examples from the interviews.

In the interview №01interviewer several times ask again about information which he already received earlier (see 01: 14-15/475-477; 212-215/301-303). But this can be explained by high speed of respondent’s speech – interviewer wrote about it in the postscript: “he’s talking so fast that I was kind of freaked out at the beginning” (01: 786-787). Of course interviewer ought to be prepared for it.

It is interesting situation for analyze when interviewer to support respondent ask not necessary questions. In the interview №11 interviewer from time to time asked about respondent’s pregnancy: “Was it a hard time when you were pregnant?” (11: 94); “Was there anybody taking care of you when you were pregnant?” (11: 231); “In fact, your experience of being pregnant and giving birth in Germany is quite rare” (11: 482-483); “Did you feel strange when you were alone here and being pregnant?” (11: 487); “Have you had any problems during the whole period? From becoming pregnant until giving birth?” (11: 494-495). I think this question was not in the guide, but interviewer ought to keep the conversation and to be more attentive to the respondent’s problem – this is a communication strategy which generate understanding, as Witzel wrote (Witzel, 2000: 4).

Also the main point for interaction in the interview is a change (I mean the situation when interviewer ends with one topic and starts to talk about other one). There are several ways to change the theme of the interview: “natural” way when the conversation flows smoothly to another part, of course the interviewer directs it but not roughly, he/she connects with the last theme and statement:

“Y: It was Ok. Anyway…I feel people I met here are all nice people.

I: How do you feel about making friends here?” (11: 96-97);

and “special” way when interviewer just moves to the next questions: “OK, let’s move to the next topic” (15: 331) or “The next topic is about gender difference, what do you think about this issue?” (15: 364). I suppose that the first way is preferable than the second one.

Another example of close interaction between interviewees and interviewers we can find in the interview №09, when not only respondent but also interviewer becomes a real participant of conversation (09: 74-94).

So in this case report I tried to summarize several moments (but of course not all) according to interaction between interviewees and interviewers used some specific interviewers.

Also I look through the Natalie’s report because she like me analyzed interaction between interviewees and interviewers, but based on other of group interviews. And I discovered in her report some interesting points for analyzing which I overlooked or didn’t find in my interviews. Thus Natalie generalized mistakes of interviewers and gave appropriate examples from different interviews (Maloshonok, 2010: 2-4). She mentioned about following mistakes:

A lot of questions at the beginning instead of description of a general idea of the research;

Absent of description of general idea of the research;

Using of value-judgments and expression of interviewer’s opinion;

Interviewer tries to guess answer of respondent;

Using of question leading to certain answer (leading questions);

Interrupting of respondent;

Forgetting important information about respondent;

Forgetting own role by interviewer

I agree with her marked mistakes and want to add that in each research project there is some specification. So this fact interviewer ought to take into account and to orient the interaction in right side.

And now based on my own empirical experience and of course on some important scientific works I would like to give some recommends for the interviewers to avoid troublesome and unpleasant situations during interviewing. Firstly interviewer should choose the rule which he/she would play before respondent. There are at least two types of interviewer’s behavior: “expert” and “fool”. The first refers to the situation when interviewer knows about research questions a lot, understands the subject of conversation and can criticize respondent’s ideas (within reasonable limits of course). The second type refers to the situation when interviewer doesn’t know at all about research questions (or he/she shams it) and behaviors like “fool” – wants to repeat some statements, asks specializing questions etc. It’s necessary to understand that there are only models of behavior which cannot reproduce the reality.

It’s absolutely necessary for interviewer to listen respondent’s speech very carefully. From the one hand interviewer has to receive the answers to all research questions and so why he/she needs ask new and new questions. But from the other hand interviewer mustn’t interrupt his/her interlocutor because he/she can overlook some important information.

I want to conclude and describe in a few words an ideal model of interviewer’s behavior. “An ideal” interviewer should understands clearly what information from respondent he/she need receive. For that interviewer has to keep up the conversation in appropriate way: to listen attentively; to turn the themes in the right for him/her direction, but not to break the respondent’s thesis; to support respondent’s pronouncements and communicate with interviewee (by nods, special interjections like “ygy” or “aha” or some expressions such “Really?” or “Great!”), but not to dictate a necessary answer and not to show his/her own opinion about smt. But of course the conversation not to be arid: if interviewer notes that respondent is bored he/she ought to divert e.g. with some story or joke. Interviewer should have in eye on respondent’s behavior and reaction to questions to keep up the conversation in time.

So interviewing is a very complex for interviewer process during which he/she ought to play a difficult rule.


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