Software and Qualitative Analysis

4. The Qualitative Research Process

In a deductive approach the researcher is likely to begin with a conceptual framework (a theory) and from that generate the specific research questions for the current study, while in an inductive approach he is likely to begin with a set of research questions of interest, and then create a conceptual framework to guide and shape the study.

Establishing Research Questions and a Conceptual Framework

Let's begin with a set of research questions and a conceptual framework (which comes first being determined by whether the approach is inductive or deductive) and move toward reaching conclusions.

Collecting Data

Data are collected in order to answer the research questions, and in qualitative studies the data are often voluminous. If the researcher is going to do something more rigorous than simply read through the mountain of data and report his or her impressions, the data must then be somehow reduced into a form in which it can be examined for patterns and relationships.

Figure 1a

Diagram of the qualitative research process discussed in this section highlighting collection data.

Deductive logic
Reasoning from the general to the specific. In this approach, you begin by specifying a theory. From the theory, you generate hypotheses about what should happen in specific circumstances. If you wish to test the theory, you can collect data to see whether what you hypothesize happens. If it does, the specific data you examine provide support for your theory. The direction of reasoning is often thought of as “top down,” from theory (the general) to data (the specific).
Inductive logic
Reasoning from the specific to the general. In this approach, you begin by examining concrete events or phenomena—your data. From the data, you attempt to identify larger categories of phenomena (or constructs, or variables), and to understand the relationships among them. In other words, you use the data to build theory. The direction of reasoning is often thought of as “bottom up,” from the data (the specific) to theory (the general).