I have always been a supporter of the use of the Mixed Methods research methodology. To reiterate from my previous posts, It is all about answering the research questions. The research questions decide what methodology and what methods to use to answer it.
In the 2014 article,”Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Information From Interviews: A Systematic Literature Review,” by Fakis, Hilliam, Stoneley and Townend, a point is treated inconsequential. Overall, the authors present a strong argument for using quantitative analyses methods on qualitative information to generate new hypotheses and to test theories. This post addresses the inconsequential point that “the quantification of
qualitative information is not related to specific qualitative technique and is not an interest only
for specific type of qualitative researchers” (p. 156).
I have to disagree and state that this topic should be further investigated. Based on my experience with and knowledge of methods use I recognize that a method’s essential process of reducing (versus organizing) data is a key factor in a successful use of quantitative analysis methods to extract macro and meso level patterns from the data. In my 2013 article (posted on my blog somewhere!), I clearly show a complex reduction process for the constant comparative analysis method. Such a process could work as an advantage for using a particular quantitative analysis method. I am not an expert in quantitative analysis, but from my experience if you have thoroughly and effectively reduced the qualitative data during a qualitative analysis, this leads to less variation in the independent variables when you begin to use a quantitative analysis method; automatically, the researcher gets a stronger relationship between the independent and dependent variables. This highlights that the reducing and reorganizing stages of specific qualitative analysis methods make them more suitable for using with specific quantitative analysis methods. In general, the mixed methods methodology is grounded in this logic, but the authors seem to brush off this connection recognized in their literature review.
The authors stated that the content analysis method was commonly used and showed more valid and reliable results when accounting for an acceptable sample size. Their misunderstanding occurs in their passive inclusion of “grounded theory for analyzing” instead of taking into account the strengths of the constant comparative analysis method outside of grounded theory for reducing data. Similar to an algorithm, a researcher works the data by reducing and/or reorganizing following a finite list of well-defined steps. It is logical to assume that specific qualitative analysis methods with more precise reduction processes are better suited for the use of specific quantitative analysis methods.
As I have stated in a previous post, many published journal articles are not offering enough details about the data-coding stage of their research project. This issue easily can contribute to misguided understandings about the preciseness of reduction processes for specific qualitative analysis methods like the content analysis method and the thematic analysis method. Content Analysis has its origins in quantitative research; therefore, it is hardly a jump to be able to use quantitative analyses on qualitative information involving the use of the content analysis method. Traditionally, thematic analysis has been a qualitative method. Recent qualitative analysis software made the jump easier.
The authors stated:
…the statistical analysis of qualitative information was observed more in data derived from content analysis, which is used for extracting objective content from texts for identifying themes and patterns (Hsieh &Shannon, 2005). the type of information extracted from the content analysis could be measured and transformed to quantitative data more regularly than using other methods of qualitative analysis. In six studies content analysis was initially performed for analyzing qualitative data. However, six of the articles in the review used thematic analysis or grounded theory for analyzing the qualitative information. The variety of qualitative methods used before the statistical methods are applied could indicate that the quantification of qualitative information is not relateed to specific qualitative technique and is not an interest only for specific type of qualitative researchers (p. 156).
The authors bring up a valuable point, but treat it with less importance. Future research on methods use in mixed methods research should include an investigation of the data coding stage regarding the initial analysis of qualitative data using qualitative analysis methods and the complimentary use of quantitative analyses methods to gleam new hypotheses or to test a theory. This investigation should focus on the reduction and reorganization processes that occur during analysis and highlight which qualitative analysis methods are more suitable for a follow-up use of particular quantitative analysis methods. The authors’ suggestion for future research is for effort towards developing an “advanced statistical modeling method that will be able to explore the complex relationships arising from the qualitative information” (p. 158). They need to take one step back and look at the connection between the processes of reducing the data between the qualitative and quantitative methods first.
I believe that the authors missed out on an opportunity to investigate a new hypothesis, missed out on setting the stage to influence others to advance the methodology, and missed out on giving mixed methods designs more credit than they did in their article.
Fakis, A., Hilliam, R., Stoneley, H., Townend, M. 2014. Quantitative Analysis of Qualitative Information From Interviews: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 8(2): 139-161.
Hsieh, H. F., & Shannon, S. E. 2005. Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15, 1277-1288.