Qualitative methods of analysis are diverse in their ability to analyze data and draw conclusions for non-numeric values. There are different types of qualitative analysis methods for different types of problems and datasets. For example, categorical data can be analyzed qualitatively based on patterns, themes or other relationships. Hierarchical data can justify a qualitative approach based on the complexity of concepts, and can be further analyzed using a flow chart or diagram. The most common types of qualitative methods of analysis are based on observation.
Qualitative surveys are often discussed in contrast to quantitative surveys. The difference between the two is based on the type of data and the method of analysis. If the data are aggregated as numerical values, then a quantitative method that often accompanies statistical analysis can be used. On the other hand, qualitative methods based on data sets are usually not suitable for statistical analysis. Non-numeric data can be converted to numeric values using a ranking system or a variety of codes.
Categories can be coded and codes can be used for comparison. This do-it-yourself approach is technically referred to as the grounded theory method of comparative analysis. Barney Glaser and Anselm Strauss developed it in the 1960s. The “data” is organized based on four criteria: work, relevance, fit and modifiability. Qualitative analytical methods such as this can be used to analyze content data such as field or laboratory notes.
A visual representation of non-numeric data is another form of qualitative analysis. Flow charts, infographics and charts have the ability to reason and interpret data when it is challenging to define relationships using another method from the list of qualitative methods of analysis. A metaphorical method of analysis also can be used to understand the dataset in the form of something more relatable. For example, analyzing chemical processes can be explained in terms of cooking, metaphorically speaking.
Most other types of qualitative methods of analysis can be summarized under the umbrella of observation methods. If observation involves animal behavior, semiotics or linguistics, the power of observation can easily be used in many scenarios. Observations can be recorded in the form of notes, sketches and photographs. “Data” collected can be further analyzed using another qualitative analytical method to categorize or refine the observations. For example, the frequency can be measured by counting the number of times a designation is repeated in field notes.
- Laboratory notes often play a key role in qualitative analysis.
- An infographic combines images and text to present qualitative data.