Qualitative Data Analysis and Interpretation Tips

The following are some tips in analyzing and interpreting qualitative data that can be helpful to beginning researchers:

  • Consider the data from various perspectives. Whatever the research may be or whatever data have been collected, it is always best to ask what that data mean for the readers.
  • Think beyond the data. Make the most out of the data, neither too much nor too little. Ensure that the connection between or among the data sets and their interpretations are clear. Anchor all data interpretations on the research objectives.
  • Make visible personal assumptions and beliefs or models that influence the interpretation, representing personal views of the world. These models are usually not carefully analyzed and may be below the level of understanding. If left unexamined, the assumptions and beliefs might lead to wrong interpretations. Think and reason out carefully. Individual or collective listing of assumptions about inquiry focus can be done.
  • In some cases, outlying data or data that is different from others, may be encountered and regarded accordingly. Consider to incorporate them in the analysis and interpretation of data.
  • Watch out for some data that may come in surprise, contradictory or puzzling, because they usually lead to useful insights. They must also be given attention for a holistic interpretation of data.

Relating the Findings with Pertinent Literature

In relating findings to pertinent literature, comparability should be considered. Data must be compared within cases or situations in the data set. Most importantly, data must be compared to existing related studies surveyed. Through this, the findings can be situated in the context of the literature reviewed during the earlier part of the research process. A question like “Are the findings consistent with or contradictory to the body of literature surveyed?” must be asked. In doing this, use phrases such as, “the results extend what was found by,” “in contrast to the findings of,” and “the results of this study suggest,” in interpreting results to create an impression that related literature had been reviewed thoroughly.