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Analysis and interpretation of qualitative data
Manstead and McCulloch (1981) carried out one of the earliest British studies of sex-role
stereotyping in TV advertisements. They focused on adverts that featured an adult playing a leading
part, analysing the role played by the adult, the product used, the type of argument they voiced, and
the basis of their credibility.
Stereotypically, men portrayed an autonomous role, gave factual information about a product and
were experts on it. Women tended to be shown in dependent roles, gave opinions about products
and were product users.
Ten years later, Cumberbatch (1990) also used content analysis to study the portrayal of men and
women on TV and found an additional age bias in favour of portraying younger women along with
persistent gender stereotyping. Such research continues to be relevant, not only because of the
need to understand the impact of ever-increasing communications technology, but also because it
enables the monitoring of whether equal opportunities legislation is being observed.
Evaluation of content analysis
Reductionism it could be argued that converting qualitative data to numbers is reductionist. In an
advert, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts so breaking it down results in a loss of
subtleties and nuances about how its message is constructed. On the other hand, it could be argued
that such analysis preserves the essence of the content of complex material by making it more
manageable and much easier to understand.
Illusion of objectivity transforming qualitative data into numbers appears to be scientifically
rigorous because of the trust people tend to place on `hard' data and statistics. However, this
apparent objectivity could be illusory since the system of categorisation may be biased by what the
researcher personally believed to be important. The findings may therefore not be as trustworthy or
valid as they might appear initially.
Statistical procedures become possible once qualitative content has been converted into
quantitative data, a range of statistical procedures can be used to identify patterns in the data that
are not otherwise apparent. It becomes easier to compare findings from similar studies which act as a
reliability check for particular effects, giving greater confidence in the findings.
There are some complex techniques available for analysing textual information, which take time and
training to master. thematic analysis is one of the simplest and easiest to grasp. Braun and Clarke
(2006) state that:
`Thematic analysis is a method for identifying, analysing and reporting patterns within data.
It minimally organises and describes your data set in detail. However, frequently it goes
further than this, and interprets various aspects of the research topic.'
Thematic analysis involves taking a body of text and organising it into specific themes so that the
content can be summarised. Braun and Clarke distinguish between inductive and theoretical analysis.
Inductive analysis involves approaching the data with no preconceptions about which themes might
emerge. Theoretical analysis, on the other hand, usually means that the researcher already has some
ideas about which themes may emerge, based on previous research, so they examine data to see
whether these themes are present.
Evaluation of thematic analysis
Subjectivity in spite of having a set of procedures for content analysis, there is a risk that individual
researchers could interpret the same text in very different ways and so qualitative reports could
appear to be nothing more than journalism. This increased risk of subjectivity makes it difficult for
some critics to believe they could have enough confidence in the findings to apply them.
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Quality some critics argue that it is difficult to ensure the quality of research that is purely
qualitative because the aspects of quantitative research that are typically valued such as control,
objectivity and replicability, are missing. A possible solution is to use different criteria for assessing
quality. It is possible to use a technique called data triangulation and examine other sources of
information about a particular interviewee. If these additional sources of data support the
researcher's analysis then it has greater credibility.…read more
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Design this gives an overview of the structure of the study and justifies the decisions to
conduct it in a particular way. Many reports deal with ethical issues in this section.
Participants - demographic information about the participants is described here, with details
of number, sampling and recruitment procedures.
Materials here the researcher explains what is needed to carry out the research.
Procedure this section describes how the investigation was carried out.…read more