Before I share any advice or resources on qualitative data analysis, let me explain that I prefer not to use the qualitative/quantitative distinction. To me, it makes no sense to divide research methods between QUAL analysis, in which we describe qualities of things and interpret them, and QUAN analysis, where we count things and run statistics on them. Not only does that distinction make it more difficult for researchers in training to choose research methods and approaches that will answer the questions that are leading them into research in the first place, but it obscures the fact that any phenomenon can and should be analyzed both qualitatively and quantitatively.
Instead, I prefer to use the following distinction for paradigms: theory-building (or exploratory) and theory-testing (or efforts to “prove” that something is likely to occur).
However, it does make sense to divide methods (not paradigms) into qualitative and quantitative. Both data collection and data analysis can be divided this way, and such a division does help to address the challenges of various approaches. Researchers in training should keep these tenets in mind: 1. Interviews and other methods associated with qualitative methods can be analyzed quantitatively. 2. Counting and running inferential statistics may be involved in exploratory work. 3. Quantitative data analysis should be supported by interpretation that draws upon some level of qualitative analysis. 4. Research is cyclical. There is room at the table for all types of inquiry, especially in a field as broad as applied linguistics.
Qualitative Data Analysis
Recommended Tools and Sources
Transcribing Interview Data and Other Audio Recordings:
Transcribing interviews fully and accurately is a time-consuming process, but it is essential for good qualitative research. The good news today is that there are a number of tools available that can help you to transcribe them more efficiently. The following options are available at low or no cost.
No automated method of transcription is perfect. Inevitably, there will be errors that you need to catch and clean up. Also, the better your transcripts are structured, the easier it is to transfer them to a spreadsheet or data analysis software tool when you are ready to analyze your data.
Tools that help you type your own transcript faster:
You can always just play back your interview recordings and type as you go in Word or Google Docs or another word processing program. You will not be able to type as fast as you and your interviewee talk, though. Stopping, rewinding, listening again, and so on will get really old, really fast. The following programs give you keyboard shortcuts and rewind the recording in small chunks for you, which makes a huge difference.
Soundscriber – This is a classic. Free to download, easy to use.
Transcribe – Similar functions, free trial, $20/year after that.
Tools that convert sound to text:
These tools will convert sound to text for you, but keep in mind that the result will be full of errors.
In some cases, you can train the program to recognize your voice well. Then you can use the strategy of listening to the interview in your headphones and repeating everything anyone says to the program (so that everything the program hears is in your voice). Again, it won’t be perfect, but you might be able to speed up the process.
Otter.ai – Transcription using artificial intelligence
Basic users can transcribe 600 minutes per month for free. Click here to create an account: https://otter.ai/referrals/3W4G9POO
Transcribe – How to Use Dictation – Tools and advice.
Google Docs – Type with your voice – Use this function and repeat the interview words to your computer microphone.
Apple Dictation feature – Allows you to type with your voice in most programs.
Dragon Naturally Speaking – This voice-to-text software works better than the free options, but it gets expensive. There is a Home edition ($75 for English or $99 for Spanish or French) and a Dragon Anywhere subscription version (free trial, then $15/month).
MSU MediaSpace Caption tool – Click Edit and then Order Captions
Paying someone to transcribe for you:
You may choose to hire someone to transcribe for you. This is not cheating, but I certainly don’t expect you to spend this money. You won’t have a lot of control over how the transcript is structured, and of course you can’t expect this person to speak the same languages that you and your informant speak, so you’ll have to transcribe any non-English content yourself anyway. Also, personally I find that the time I spend transcribing is valuable because it makes me slow down and think about what my informants are saying more deeply.
You can find these sites easily with a web search. I’m not going to give you the names of these sites because I don’t want to look like I am endorsing them, and I also don’t want to endorse them when I haven’t used them myself.
Transcription takes time. Allow time for it, even if you find shortcuts. You can do it!