Chapter 19: Qualitative methods of data analysis

Shin, M. (2011) ‘Peeking at the relationship world of infant friends and caregivers’, Journal of Early Childhood Research, 8: 294.

This article, from the US, is about infant friendships. We have included it here to show that close observation of just two children can give some really worthwhile insights into children’s development. Look at this journal article to see how observations are used to give qualitative data.

  • Read the findings section. Note how the two research questions are directly addressed by reporting the findings for one question followed by the findings for the other question. Note also that for each research question the main themes are identified, using ‘evidence’ from the transcripts to back up the statements that are being made. There is a brief paragraph summarizing the findings as they relate to the two research questions. This is a straightforward way of reporting qualitative data and we would suggest that this sort of model is one that students undertaking their research projects or dissertations could use.
  • Read through the discussion section again. In this section, the findings are placed in context. That is to say, the findings are related to previous research and demonstrate how the present study advances our understanding. The discussion makes recommendations on how practitioners can relate to children and promote friendships.

Seland, M., Sandseter, E and Bratterud, A. (2015) ‘One- to three-year-old children’s experience of subjective wellbeing in day care’, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 16(1): 70–83.

This article is from Norway. It looks at the well-being of children aged 1–3. As with the fist article, it is an observational study and we have included it here because it clearly shows that it is possible to look at well-being in very young children, even though traditional methods used for older children are not appropriate. The article clearly describes how to analyse and discuss qualitative data from observations. This kind of methodology would be very suitable for undergraduates conducting a small-scale research project.

  • Read through the analysis section and see how the themes/categories were uncovered.
  • Look how the findings and discussion section is organized. This is where the themes which were identified by analysing the observations are discussed using previous research findings.