Winter School in Empirical Research Methods

Qualitative Research Methods and Data Analysis

Instructor: Paul Mihas

QRDA presents strategies for analyzing and making sense of qualitative data. Both descriptive and interpretive qualitative studies will be discussed, as will more defined qualitative approaches such as grounded theory, narrative analysis, and case studies. The course will briefly cover research design and data collection strategies but will largely focus on analysis. In particular, we will consider how researchers develop codes and integrate memo writing into a larger analytic process. The purpose of coding is to provide a focus to qualitative analysis; it is critical to have a handle on coding practices as you move deeper into analysis. The course will present coding and memo writing as concurrent tasks that occur during an active review of interviews, documents, focus groups, and/or multi‑media data. We will discuss deductive and inductive coding and how a codebook evolves, that is, how codes might “emerge” and shift during analysis. Managing codes includes developing code hierarchies, identifying code “constellations,” and building multidimensional themes.

The class will present memo writing as a strategy for capturing analytical thinking, inscribed meaning, and cumulative evidence for condensed meanings. Memos can also resemble early writing for reports, articles, chapters, and other forms of presentation. Researchers can also mine memos for codes and use memos to build evocative themes and theory. Coding and memo writing are discussed in the context of data-driven qualitative research beginning with design and moving toward presentation of findings. The course will also discuss using visual tools in analysis, such as diagramming core quotations from data to holistically present the participant’s key narratives. Visual tools can also assist in looking horizontally across many transcripts to identify connective themes and link the parts to the whole.

We will spend one day learning a qualitative analysis software package, ATLAS.ti. The methods discussed in the course will be applicable to qualitative studies in a range of fields, including the behavioral sciences, social sciences, health sciences, communications, and business.


Day 1

Core Principles and Practices in Qualitative Data Inquiry
Qualitative Research Design: An Overview
Data types
Comparative strategies
Qualitative sampling
Analysis Task 1: Memo Writing
Document summary memos
Key-quote memos
Methods memos

Day 2

Analysis Task 2: Using Visual Tools
Episode profiles
Making sense of data using diagrams
Working with core quotations
Analysis Task 3: Coding Qualitative Data
a. Descriptive coding

Interpretive coding
Strategies to coding
Line‑by‑line coding
Creating a codebook

Day 3

Introduction to Qualitative Software: ATLAS.ti
a. Overview

b. Beginning a project

c. Writing comments and memos

d. Coding data

2. Hands‑on Exercises Using ATLAS

Analysis in ATLAS.ti
Exploring codes and memos in queries
Matrices and diagrams
Blending quantitative and qualitative data

Day 4

Methodological Traditions
a. Grounded theory

b. Narrative analysis

c. Case study

e. Pragmatic qualitative analysis

Day 5

Qualitative Research Design: Revisiting Strategies
Data Collection considerations

  • Interviews
  • Focus groups
  • Other types of data

Developing interviewing skills
Other data types
Evaluating qualitative articles
Class discussion


Electronic version of these articles will be provided to registered participants:

Ahlsen, Birgitte, et al. 2013. “(Un)doing Gender in a Rehabilitation Context: A Narrative Analysis of Gender and Self in Stories or Chronic Muscle Pain.” Disability and Rehabilitation 1‑8.

Charmaz, Kathy. 1999. “Stories of Suffering: Subjective Tales and Research Narratives.” Qualitative Health Research 9:362‑82.

Sandelowski, Margarete. 2000. “Whatever Happened to Qualitative Description?” Research in Nursing and Health 23:334‑40.

Rouch, Gareth, et al. 2010. “Public, Private and Personal: Qualitative Research on Policymakers’ Opinions on Smokefree Interventions to Protect Children in ‘Private’ Spaces.” BMC Public Health 10:797‑807.


Charmaz, Kathy. 2006. Constructing Grounded Theory: A Practical Guide through Qualitative Analysis. Sage.

Marshall, Catherine, and Gretchen B. Rossman. 2006. Designing Qualitative Research. 4th ed. Sage.

Yin, Robert. 2013. Case Study Research Design and Methods. Sage.


Participants will be asked to read several interviews or journal entries and generate a preliminary analysis of the data using techniques discussed during the course. This examination will be due three weeks after the course ends.


Students will have to demonstrate familiarity with the differences between grounded theory, narrative analysis, case study, and pragmatic analysis. The assignment will require them to choose one of these approaches to design a study and analyze several documents provided by the instructor. Their preliminary analysis will include memos, a codebook, diagrams, early findings, and reflection on next steps.