Wedding Work

Author: Áine Humble

Setting up the project

My entry into the field for this study was quite different from the entry that occurred in my dissertation research. For my dissertation, I actually used a non-purposive sampling approach. Using publicly-available marriage license records from three county offices, I used a random sampling procedure to contact couples, with the intent to find 10 couples from each county for a total of 30. In the end, I interviewed 21 couples. This sampling procedure was not used to locate a sample that I could generalize to the larger population. The marriage license records were a very convenient way to located recently married couples. I didn’t have to pay for expensive newspaper ads, something for which, as a graduate student, I was very grateful. More importantly, I wanted to have a sample that varied in terms of gender construction—that is, how men and women negotiated and carried out the work for their weddings. I knew I would be less likely to find such variation if I used a procedure such as snowball sampling. Purposive sampling was not on my mind so much as attaining maximum variation in my sample, and my dissertation advisors did not advise me otherwise. Moreover, I did not use a form of purposive sampling called maximum variation sampling because I could not very well advertise for “couples who thought they planned their wedding together but really did not”—this had to be discovered naturally through the actual interviews. At any rate, since that time I have realized that most qualitative researchers advocate that purposive sampling must be used with qualitative research; in fact, one prominent qualitative researcher told me that my sampling procedure was incorrect. But I digress—this is a topic for another paper that I do hope to write one day!

When it came time to carry out my study on couples who were remarrying, I did not have publicly available marriage records available where I was carrying out this second study, so I turned to using a purposive sampling procedure, as had been recommended in the qualitative research literature. I used word-of-mouth and newspaper ads, looking to interview couples in which at least one person had remarried within the past three years. My application for ethics approval went smoothly, and I was ready to interview couples. Given that I had already done a study in which I had interviewed people on a similar topic, I felt confident about how the interviews would go.

Difficulties with finding participants

The only problem was—where were these couples? A few hiccups occurred along the way. For example, a friend who fit the criteria offered to be interviewed. Turning a feminist lens on a close friend’s relationship was not what I was comfortable with, so I turned down her offer as graciously as I could. I interviewed a few couples initially but the responses and inquiries petered out despite a popular columnist’s article in the local newspaper. Some women or men expressed initial interest in the project, but eventually declined as those who were divorced sometimes realized they were not as comfortable talking about their first marriage as they thought they might be. Although I assured them that I would only ask one question asking them to describe their first wedding (their wedding, not their marriage) and how they planned for it and that they could refuse to answer any question they did not feel comfortable answering, they were firm in their decisions. Fair enough, I moved on.

I came to realize that it would be more difficult to find respondents than I had previously thought, and I was humbled by this realization. I was collecting data in a different country (Canada) from my dissertation study (the US), and I was very much aware that Canada had a significantly smaller population compared to the US. Moreover, I realized I was in a region of Canada (the Atlantic provinces) that had a smaller population compared to other parts of the country. And even though I lived in an urban area (Halifax, Nova Scotia), it was not a large city and my province had a considerable rural population. Thus, I knew I had a smaller regional population from which to find my sample. This was important to be aware of, as I was interviewing people in person and I had a small travel budget.

I knew, too, that the population of divorced individuals remarrying would be smaller than my previous population of couples marrying for the first time, but I had not thought carefully enough about this. At that time, Canada had a current divorce rate of approximately 34%, with about 70% of divorced men and 58% of divorced women remarrying (Ambert, 2005a). I underestimated the number of divorced individuals who had reentered an intimate relationship in the form of cohabitation rather than remarriage. Thus, I heard of many divorced individuals who were back in committed relationships and living with their partners but not married. In Canada, although cohabitation is more common with younger adults (typically ones who have not yet married) than with older cohabitors, older cohabiters were more likely to be divorced than never-married (Ambert, 2005b). If individuals had not had the formal ritual of a wedding, which was what I was studying, I could not interview them.

I took a break from data collection, regrouped, and tried again at a later date, this time placing newspaper ads in several newspapers (I spent much more on promotion of the study than original planned; I had greatly underestimated promotional costs—an important lesson to take in the future). The second time around, I received a much better response to the ads (note: I did not use snowball sampling because it was still important to have a sample that varied in terms of gender construction). In the end I interviewed 14 couples—a little lower than I would have preferred, but sufficient for my purpose.

The data


Interviews were semi-structured, with only six or seven main questions asked depending on who was being interviewed. (Respondents also completed a brief questionnaire, which gathered demographics, at the end of the interview.) Those marrying for the first time were asked six questions; previously married individuals were asked seven questions. The additional question, which asked individuals to talk about the planning of their previous wedding(s), did not provide much rich data. In some cases the comparison wedding was 20 or 30 years earlier, so understandably, individuals could not remember many details.

To begin the interview, I asked individuals to tell me how they became engaged. This question was asked mainly to ease into the interview and help the respondent become more comfortable with talking with me, however it did reveal some interesting information as well. (In my research, the first question I typically ask in an interview may not be absolutely central to the research question but is asked because it helps to develop rapport between myself and the individual.)

I approached these interviews as extended conversations (Rubin & Rubin, 2005). I never read verbatim any of the interview questions listed on the interview guide, which I kept close to me. Instead, I memorized my questions and focused on asking them in as natural a way as possible. Many probes (e.g., Could you say more about that?) and follow up questions were used. I also used active listening skills (Ivey & Ivey, 2007) from the counseling profession to assist me in pulling out individuals’ stories. What this means is that I did not rely solely on asking “questions.” I used other skills such as (a) repeating key words (e.g., “nervous;” “nervous? could you say more about that?”) or key phrases (e.g., “wanted him more involved”); (b) paraphrasing (e.g., “So he did become more involved over time, is that what you’re saying?”); and (c) reflecting feeling or meaning (e.g., “I imagine that was extremely important for you…”).

Being reflexive about the interviews

Because weddings are often seen as women’s domains, it was important for the study that men, who are typically less involved, had a chance to talk openly about their experiences. Thus, I interviewed them separately from their wives. I also planned to alternate between who was interviewed first as I moved from one couple to the next, but a review of the transcripts revealed that I may have been “lazy” about this at times—twice I did not change the order. I alternated because I was concerned that I might probe less in second interviews, and if certain people (i.e., men) were always interviewed second, I might insert a type of bias into the data collection. Couples often expected the woman to be interviewed first, but were comfortable when I requested otherwise.

Interestingly, when I created a table to review the transcripts, I see that longer interviews were split equally for first (7) and second interviews (7) in each couple, but I also note that that longer interviews were more common with the women (11) than with men (3). Moreover, first interviews (9) had more coded segments compared to second interviews (5). And, overall, women had more coded segments in their interviews compared to their partners (13 of the 14 couples), and this was regardless of the type of couple categorization (traditional, transitional, or egalitarian). This pattern is not necessarily surprising—given societal expectations around women’s greater interest and investment in weddings, it is likely that they provided more detail or “better data” with regard to the topic. Moreover, women are more likely to give greater detail than men in any kind of interview. However, the patterns are something for me to think about. Did I ask enough questions and probe sufficiently when I was interviewing the men regardless of whether or not they were interviewed before or after their wives?


Transcription was an interesting process and a real learning experience for me. In my previous work, I had completed my own transcription, striving for accuracy as much as possible, but recognizing that transcription is, ultimately, an interpretive process (Poland, 1995). I would transcribe each interview and listen to it a second time to review the transcription. The second review often caught small errors and helped me catch words, phrases, or sentences I did not understand the first time. I saw this (and still do) as an essential part of the transcription process. For this study, I hired professional transcribers to do the work. I assumed they held similar accuracy standards, so initially I did not review their work. This cost me both time and money! They left out parts of the transcript that I thought were vital to include, such as nonverbal behavior (e.g., laughing or emphasis on certain words). They sometimes deliberately changed words, which I had a problem with (if any changes are to be made to a transcript, I expect the researcher to make that decision rather than the transcriber). They also did not review their work after their first run-through of the data, even after I asked them to and they assured me that they would! Numerous errors were in the transcripts, such as:

What was transcribed (the error)

What was really said (the correction)

You bought from a designer, yeah.

You got them to sign it, yeah.

I think to be kind to me, she might have phoned in a little small bit of pepperoni.

I think to be kind to me, she might have thrown in some salami or pepperoni.

I vowed that if I ever got in another serious relationship, I was gonna communicate. We don’t ever talk.

I vowed that if I ever got in another serious relationship, I was gonna communicate. We were gonna talk.

Consequently, I had to spend excessive amounts of time, energy, and money on reviewing the transcripts. As I have indicated, this was a very frustrating experience for me, but I learned much from it. For example, I created a specific transcription guide and vowed to work much more closely with transcribers throughout the process.

I did not use member checking for this study, but since then I have started providing it as an option to interested participants as an additional way to check the accuracy of transcription. I do not provide my analysis for members to verify, though—Morse (1998) has noted the problem with doing so. A letter is provided with the transcript to explain the purpose of the transcript reviews and to help participants understand what a typical transcript looks like.

Working with data


First, some brief points about data management/housekeeping. In my folder/file management system, I had folders for: (a) the initial grant application and any related financial documents; (b) the ethics application, which includes copies of informed consent forms, interview guides, and so on; (c) promotional material (newspaper ads, posters to be distributed at coffee shops, etc.); (d) the actual analysis (this can include quantitative data, if relevant—for this study, I also had an SPSS file with demographic information about the sample); (e) publications; (f) conference presentations; and (g) resources (e.g., downloaded research articles in pdf format). For this study, I kept note of various data management and analysis issues in one file, which was kept separate from the folders. However, since then, I have used MAXQDA’s logbook for my audit trail (see Rodgers & Cowles, 1993, for a discussion of audit trails) for other projects and will continue to do so. Transcripts were typed out in a word processor (I use Microsoft Word) and changed to rich text format (with the file extension “.rtf”), which is a requirement before being imported into MAXQDA (once imported, the files are listed in the document system window).

With regard to backing up data prior to coding, two back-up copies of each transcript were made. First, each transcript was printed out and stored in a locked cabinet to which only I had access (microcassettes of the interviews were also kept here). Second, back-up electronic copies of the transcripts were stored on a CD in a separate location. I kept a back-up electronic copy of my MAXQDA file as well, but I admit that I did not save multiple versions of the analysis to show how it was changing over time. This has changed in more recent projects (I use MAXQDA’s back up file option); on any day when new changes are made to the analysis, a new version is saved with that date (e.g., “Analysis- remarried- Jan 04-08.mx3”). Older versions are placed into a folder titled “previous analyses” and organized chronologically (e.g., a new folder for each week and/or month). Saving as different files rather than saving the same file over and over again serves two purposes: (a) it provides a history of the analysis, and (b) it also gives me confidence that I have a previous file to revert to in case the latest version somehow becomes corrupted.


To begin my analysis, I used the inductive process of topic coding (Richards & Morse, 2007) or open coding (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), staying as close to the data as possible, which is recommended by both Charmaz (2006) and LaRossa (2005) at the start of an analysis. This part of the analysis was carried out in MAXQDA. I should point out that I was already familiar with this program prior to beginning this study, and knew it was an appropriate QDA program (also referred to as a CAQDAS- Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis System) to use for this particular analysis. I learned how to use this program on my own as a graduate student and I found its interface (consisting of four main windows called document system, text browser, code system, and retrieved segments, any of which can be viewed at the same time) and other aspects of the program very intuitive to use. I have described this program elsewhere (Humble, 2009a); MAXQDA also has a very helpful website that includes on-line tutorials and screenshots of the interface and other options.

In MAXQDA’s text browser window, text segments from each transcript were coded for topics such as the type of work that was done, feelings experienced during the planning, and partner expectations (e.g., around involvement or level of involvement). As codes were created, they were listed in the code system window. Although I coded for many topics, my main interest was in the division of labour—who managed wedding work, who carried out tasks, and what kind of tasks were managed or accomplished by brides or grooms. I focused primarily on three work categories reported by the respondents: (a) work that women did on their own, (b) work that men did on their own, and (c) work that was done together. I also coded for when other people helped out. For example, when one groom reported that his wife had checked out ceremony and reception venues with her mother rather than with him (the text segment: “I didn’t have a whole lot of time to go do site visits and that sort of thing, but we discussed a lot of things at home, and she actually went with her mother to most of the places”), it was coded as “women’s work\visiting venues” and “received help from others\mother or mother-in-law”. Throughout the process of topic coding, I used a constant comparison process (Strauss & Corbin, 1990), continually checking to see if the segment I had just coded fit with the other text segments assigned to that code. This procedure was facilitated by MAXQDA’s retrieved segments window, which can show all of the coded text segments for a particular code once that code is “activated” for such analysis. Constantly comparing coded segments and codes helped ensure coding consistency within the codes. When needed, I renamed codes, deleted coded segments, moved coded segments, merged codes together, and so on (this was easily accomplished through various options in the code system window). It is important to see codes as flexible at this stage of the process.

Couple categorization

As I coded the transcripts for each couple, I developed a sense of what their wedding preparation was like, and immediately after coding each bride and groom from the same couple I described their wedding preparation (of both their most recent and first weddings) in a paragraph or two in a separate document (in Microsoft Word). In this document, I noted my interpretation of their gender construction in their descriptions of their most recent weddings. I then compared couples with each other in terms of their gender construction, working a bit more deductively at this stage, as per directed content analysis, whose goal is to “validate or extend conceptually a theoretical framework or theory” (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005, p. 1281).

Based on the topic coding and descriptions, I categorized each couple into a previously developed conceptualization (Humble et al., 2008) consisting of three wedding planning categories: (a) traditional (the groom has no involvement or very little involvement in wedding planning), (b) transitional (the bride and groom feel that there is equal involvement and the groom is more involved compared to traditional grooms, but details from the interviews indicate that the bride-to-be still does most of the work), and (c) egalitarian (the bride and groom plan and carry out wedding planning together). I also looked at couples within each category, seeking to describe the full range of gender construction—for example, seeking to determine who was the most egalitarian or least egalitarian of the couples who were all categorized as egalitarian. To carry out this analysis, I printed out each couple’s sheet and placed all 14 sheets on the floor of my living room. This allowed me to move couples (their sheets) from categories or within categories as needed. Indeed, some placements did change as I thought carefully about each couple and compared them to the other couples. Thus, I actually continued with a constant comparative process here, but with the comparison now between conceptual categories rather than codes. During this stage of the analysis, I categorized six couples as traditional, three as transitional, and five as egalitarian. 

Matrix analysis

What about individuals’ first weddings (for those who remarried, which were 26 of the 28 participants)? As indicated earlier, the impetus for this study was to see if individuals did do anything differently “the second time ’round.” I mentioned earlier that I did not have as good data for these weddings as I had for individuals’ most recent weddings because some individuals were trying to remember details from events that occurred 20 or 30 years ago. However, I was able to get a general sense of participants’ first weddings and the planning of those events. With that information, I developed a qualitative matrix (Richards, 2005) comparing individuals’ first weddings with their second weddings. Matrix analysis involves “the crossing of two or more main dimensions. . . to see how they interact” (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 239, as cited in Averill, 2002). I created this matrix using a Microsoft Word table, cross referencing how involved (little to no involvement or a high level of involvement) individuals were relative to their partners for their most recent weddings with how involved they were in their first weddings (gleaned from reviewing their answers to the question about their first weddings), again, relative to their first spouses. This matrix is shown in Humble (2009c). It was very easy to create the matrix, and it was an effective way of simplifying the data to determine whether or not there were any patterns, which there were (although second or third weddings tended to be smaller, less formal events compared to first weddings, the results indicated that patterns were typically reproduced from first weddings to second weddings. That is, if a woman was largely responsible for planning and carrying her first wedding, she was still typically responsible for planning and carrying out her second wedding, even if it was smaller or less formal). Matrix analysis was new to me, however, and after I presented my results at a conference in 2008, I decided that I could have presented the matrix results in a different—and what I thought a much clearer—way. This alternative matrix is presented on my website. I humbly submit that I am still learning…

Analysis process

Meadows and Morse (2001) note that different combinations of “analytic approaches (e.g., constant comparison, immersion/crystallization, matrices, manual analysis, and computer-assisted analysis)” (p. 194) can enhance the rigor of a study. I would agree with this—I  came to what I felt was a robust and valid analysis only through using several data analysis techniques (note: these are described in more detail in Humble, 2009c; Humble, 2009b. I have already described some of the techniques in the third section where I described the initial analysis; here I describe how I extended that analysis.

I should point out that each technique, both in the initial and later stages of data analysis was important in drawing my attention to different features of wedding planning. Like the different lenses an optometrist places in front of a patient, each brought the full phenomenon of wedding planning into clearer focus. Additionally, using different data analysis techniques helped me to become aware of blind spots I was holding with regard to the analysis. Ultimately, through the process of carrying out these different ways of looking at the data I developed a more complete and validated picture of the process of gender construction within wedding planning for these couples.

Rank order comparison

Rank order comparison (Curtis et al., 2001) involves the counting of certain codes. Counting can occur in qualitative research and in fact some researchers argue that it is an intrinsic part of qualitative work (Miles & Huberman, 2004; Sandelowski, 2001) despite the ways in which many researchers attempt to “mask” numbers with words (Sandelowski). If counting is used, it should contribute something further to the qualitative analysis, such as enhancing the trustworthiness of an analysis (Miles & Huberman) rather than, of course, replace it.

In this study, I counted codes for the number of different types of wedding work individuals reported (a) women doing on their own, (b) men doing on their own, and (c) couples carrying out together. Based on these counts, I came up with an average number of tasks performed by women, men, or together within each of the couple categories and then the couple categories were ranked compared to each other. This procedure is a bit too detailed to describe here, but is described in Humble (2009b). The important thing to note here is that it was only during this analysis that I had an “a-ha” moment in which I realized that I had been focusing too much on women’s solo work or the work couples did together at the expense of the work men did on their own (my first blind spot). Examining the rank ordering of the different couple categories in terms of who carried out what work, I realized that the one way that transitional couples differentiated themselves from egalitarian couples was that men in transitional couples rarely did anything on their own, in fact they reported doing even less tasks on their own compared to traditional couples in this study. I would not have had this awareness without conducting the rank order comparison. Enhanced clarity!

I mentioned earlier that two features of the MAXQDA program assisted with carrying out the rank ordering comparison. The first feature was the Attributes feature (now referred to as Document Variables), a spreadsheet option in which descriptive coding (Richards & Morse, 2007) that stores information about each file (in this case, each person) can be entered. Once descriptive codes or “attributes” are entered, transcripts can then be “activated” on the basis of the values of that attribute. For example, if I was only interested in how gender affected wedding preparation, I could activate the files by two values (women or men) located in the gender attribute. Other examples of attributes I entered were whether or not the couple had cohabited prior to getting married and who was remarrying (the bride, groom, or both). Some attributes I entered prior to data analysis, but I also added attributes that emerged out of the analysis. For the purposes of the rank order comparison, I added in which couple category each person was assigned to (traditional, transitional, or egalitarian). Once I had this in the Attributes table, I was then able to activate files according to their gender construction (note: such activations can actually be saved as sets, which can save time further down the road) so that I could then look at coding for traditional, transitional, or egalitarian couples.

Setting up the activation of the gender construction code paved the way for me to use the Code Matrix Browser option, which provides a visual look at which codes (all codes may be looked at or only certain codes) have been assigned to which transcripts (a second option is to look at how many times a code has been assigned to a particular transcript, but in this case, I was only interested in the presence or absence of the codes). As part of the rank order comparison, I activated the categories of the three types of work (work done by women, by men, and together) and analyzed them one at a time by each couple category. An example of the code matrix browser output for a group of women is shown on my webpage.

Visual analyses

The second angle I took on the wedding work involved an examination of respondents’ TextPortraits (now called Document Portraits). TextPortraits are a visual representation of coding, available in the MAXQDA program. To use TextPortraits, different colors must be used for different codes. In this case,  I coded women’s work in yellow, men’s work in blue, and work done together in red. Additionally, white was used to code for specific comments referring to lack of help from others. I then created a TextPortrait that looked specifically at these codes. A TextPortrait is a within-case display (Kuckartz, 2007a), meaning that it looks at specified coding for just one individual (or case) at a time. TextPortraits are described in the following way:

Starting with the first row and the top left tile, the tiles are “described” with a color from left to right. When it reaches the end of a row, it proceeds down to the first column of the following row—much like when using the “return” function on a typewriter. In the normal manner of presentation, the total number of tiles is divided among the coded passages of text so that the number of tiles that symbolize a segment or its color is determined by the total size of all coded segments. (Kuckartz, 2007a, p. 8)

Thus, “broken down into a 100 X 100-piece rectangle, the (TextPortrait) is ‘portrayed’ as a painting of its codes, maintaining the location and length of their occurrence in the text” (Kuckartz, 2007b, p. 12).

At this stage I took another break from working at the computer. Similar to what I did in the initial analysis, I took my analysis to the floor again. I added each bride and groom’s TextPortraits into the word document that I had already created, the one containing a paragraph description of each couple’s wedding, and these sheets were printed out in color so I could effectively examine the TextPortraits. I placed these on the floor and looked at them, considering the range of gender construction and what I was seeing in the TextPortraits.

After I examined these visual representations of selected codes, I realized how important it was to activate the “correct codes” or else the TextPortraits could be interpreted incorrectly. When I originally created the TextPortraits for each participant, I only included the three categories of work previously described (women’s work, men’s work, and work done together). However, as I looked at the portraits on the floor, one man’s portrait, in particular, made no sense to me and made me question my initial categorization of him and his wife. I realized I had made an error in my set up of the visual analysis of couples’ wedding planning. I had neglected to consider how other people’s contributions (e.g., female friends, mothers, fathers)—my second blind spot—influenced the overall proportion of how much brides and grooms contribute to wedding work. When other people’s contributions were not included in the TextPortraits, some of the men’s wedding work was misrepresented (specifically, given greater presence than it should have) in the pictures. As a result, I printed out two different TextPortraits for each individual—the first one consisting of four activated codes (women’s work, men’s work, work done together, and lack of help from others) and the second portrait including other people’s contributions (represented in grey color). Examples of two of these TextPortraits are shown at my website and explained further there. I took the 14 sheets back to the floor a third time for examination, comparing TextPortraits within individuals, within couples, and between couples. Using the TextPortraits helped me develop a greater understanding of what was going on with the findings, and showed me that data should constantly be reviewed at all times in a project to ensure rigor (Morse, Barrett, Mayan, Olson, & Spiers, 2002).

Learning and using software

Despite knowing how to use the general features of MAXQDA software prior to beginning this study, I should point out that the Code Matrix Browser and TextPortraits were new options available in the program that I was not familiar with. I learned how to use these new tools as I carried out my study; these tools were explored after I had completed the initial data analysis described in the third section. Learning the visual tools as I was conducting my analysis worked well for me, but for others it might be imperative that they be familiar with all aspects of a software program before beginning their study or analysis. Indeed, during this study I realized that I had not used the Attributes function to its full capabilities (to create “sets”) in past research. When I did finally realize how I could use this tool, I was very excited, and it greatly assisted with using descriptive coding (Richards & Morse, 2007) to explore additional patterns in the data. Being familiar with the main characteristics of a software program is vital before starting any analysis.

However, I do want to make a final point about using QDA software. I am a great fan of QDA software for assisting with data analysis (as we all should know, software programs do not perform the analysis or interpretation). I have never conducted qualitative research without it (so I can not compare how my analysis might be different if I was doing it by hand) and I probably will not (however, not all of my analysis takes place within the software program either). But I can certainly see that the development of new tools in QDA software changed the way that I looked at my data. The capabilities of QDA software open up so many doors for data analysis (Kuckartz, 2006, 2007, has reported on this topic), but suddenly the question is raised for me—did I come to mistrust my initial analysis as a result of the new functions in MAXQDA or did I realize that I could have done more with my original research? I do not have an easy answer to this interesting question. I look forward to seeing more discussions around QDA software, and I note that a list of papers addressing QDA software issues is already available in the bibliography section of The CAQDAS Networking Project

I know that one reason I did not use any visual techniques for data analysis in my first study on wedding preparation was because the software did not allow it. At that time I used a format of the software that was two versions earlier than MAXQDA 2007 (for those who are interested, MAXQDA provides a history of its software). But I also did not do the rank order comparison (Curtis et al., 2001) the first time and yet I could have done it by hand in the first study. In fact, the first time I did it for this study, I did do it by hand, and it took me about five hours to complete it. When I realized I could have used the Code Matrix Browser for the same analysis, I did do it for verification, and it only took a half hour! And how did I learn about the rank order comparison technique? I first read about it in an article on content analysis (Hsieh & Shannon, 2005). I also was teaching a qualitative research course at the same time I was working on this project, and I learned about matrix analysis (Averill, 2002; Miles & Huberman, 2004) through this route. Whatever pathways a person takes, I can not emphasize the need to read, read, and read about qualitative research. The more I learn, the more I realize there is so much more to still know. And so I seek out more information through exploring software options, through basic “trial and error”, talking to others, and by reading qualitative method books and journals (e.g., Qualitative Health Research). These strategies are not used in a particular order. It is a flexible and exciting process!

Reporting the project

Writing about content

As stated, I knew exactly where I wanted to submit my work. I knew this far in advance of even collecting my data or writing my paper—when I submitted my application for an internal grant at my university to fund this study, I had to list suggestions of where I would disseminate the findings of my study. At that time, I wrote down the Journal of Divorce and Remarriage (JDR). I think it is very helpful to have an idea of where you want to submit your work to before you even start on it. Indeed, funding agencies often ask for this information in their application forms. This certainly does not mean that things can not change as you move through your project—in fact it did for me—but it is helpful to have a starting point.

My analysis had been completed before I started working on any papers or conference submissions (and only just so; this was a benefit for me, as I was still comfortably immersed in the project, making it easier to work on the submissions). My first stage of reporting the project involved writing a conference abstract, but as I was writing it I also realized that I could actually write the paper at the same time. So I worked simultaneously on both submissions. As in my previous work (Humble et al., 2008), I followed guidelines from Matthews (2005) in writing up my qualitative study. However, when I started focusing on the JDR paper , I took a closer look at the submission criteria, and I realized that this particular journal typically accepted papers that were only 20 pages long, which I had not paid attention to when I chose the JDR as the journal to which I would submit my work. I was used to journals that allowed up to 32 pages for qualitative studies, so this was a concern—20 pages was very short for qualitative work! I had already emailed the editor with one or two questions, so I sent a third email to him, explaining my concern. Given that I knew I could not keep the paper within a 20-page limit, should I even consider submitting my work now? He encouraged me to send in the paper in its current length (which was slightly longer than 32 pages) and wait and see what the reviewers said. Imagine my surprise when I received the editorial decision saying that it was being accepted and that no cuts were needed! I was, of course, ecstatic about the outcome, and also very pleased with myself for following through with my inquiry to the editor.

Writing about method

While I was involved in analyzing my data and, in particular, using various aspects of MAXQDA to further my exploration of the data, I realized that there was a second paper I could write, and I was confident that I could do it both easily and quickly. This second paper would focus on the actual analysis I did and the way in which the MAXQDA software facilitated the process of inquiry, showing how I “construct[ed] evidence within the qualitative project” (Meadows & Morse, 2001, p. 187). I felt it was very important not to lose the momentum of my writing—in fact, as soon as the first paper was completed, I started on the second paper the very next day. The first paper was written over a period of about three weeks and was submitted to the JDR on February 22, 2008, and the conference poster (Humble, 2008) proposal submitted to NCFR (the National Council on Family Relations) two days later. I submitted the second paper to the International Journal of Qualitative Methods (IJQM) on February 29, 2008, taking just one week to write it, which was exactly how long I thought I would need. Indeed, much of my thinking had already taken place during analysis and I had jotted down ideas about the second paper as I was writing the first one. It was just a matter of putting it all together. (I will confess, however, that I “crashed and burned” afterwards, needing a good break to recover from the intense writing focus I’d maintained for a full month amidst my other research, teaching, and service responsibilities!)

Again, the IJQM seemed like the perfect venue for my second paper. First, its focus was on advancing qualitative methods, and I wanted to fully describe the way in which I’d carried out my analysis—something that usually is not possible in typical academic journals. Second, it was published on-line; thus it could easily support the graphics that I wanted and needed to include. As stated on the journal’s webpage in their instructions to authors, “Electronic publishing allows for a convenient and inexpensive method of publishing full color graphics, so please feel free to use photographs and illustrations where appropriate.” Meaningfully describing how I conducted my analysis using MAXQDA’s various tools required the inclusion of screenshots (integral to understanding how to use a software program, as anyone who has taken a software tutorial will know) and jpg files, both of which needed to be reproduced in full color. As increasing numbers of researchers use qualitative analysis software or non-traditional ways of presenting their findings (e.g., arts-based inquiries involving pictures and photos), and as qualitative software programs continue to expand their investigative capabilities such as through the use of visual tools (Kuckartz, 2007a), journals will need to find ways to support and publish such analytical and technological advances in the qualitative research field. Qualitative researchers may also want to consider these factors before deciding where to submit their work.


Ambert, A. M. (2005a). Cohabitation and marriage: How are they related?  

Ambert, A. M. (2005b). Divorce: Facts, causes, and consequences. 

Averill, J. B. (2002). Matrix analysis as a complementary analytic strategy in qualitative inquiry. Qualitative Health Research, 12(6), 855-866.

Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Curtis, J. R., Wenrich, M. D., Carline, J. D., Shannon, S. E., Ambrozy, D. M., & Ramsey, P. G. (2001). Understanding physicians’ skills at providing end-of-life care: Perspectives of patients, families, and health care workers. Journal of General Internal Medicine, 16(1), 41-49. doi:10.1111/j.1525-1497.2001.00333.x

Daly, K. J. (2007). Qualitative methods for family studies and human development. Thousand Oaks: CA: Sage.

Ferree, M. M. (1990). Beyond separate spheres: Feminism and family research. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 52(4), 866-884. doi:10.2307/353307

Hsieh, H., & Shannon, S. E. (2005). Three approaches to qualitative content analysis. Qualitative Health Research, 15(9), 1277-1288. doi:10.1177/1049732305276687

Humble, A. M., Zvonkovic, A. M., & Walker, A. J. (2008). “The royal we”: Gender ideology, display, and assessment in wedding work. Journal of Family Issues, 29(1), 3-25.

Humble, A. M. (2008, November). Gender construction in remarried couples’ wedding planning. Poster presented at the annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Little Rock, AK.

Humble, A. M. (2009a). Computer-based analysis of qualitative data: MAXQDA 2007. In A. J. Mills, G. Durepos, & E. Wiebe (Eds.), Encyclopedia of case study research (pp. 190-192). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Humble, A. M. (2009b). Technique triangulation for validation in directed content analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(3), 34-51. 

Humble, A. M. (2009c). The second time ’round: Remarried couples’ gender construction in wedding planning. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50(4), 1-22

Ivey, A. E., & Ivey, M. B. (2007). Intentional interviewing and counseling: Facilitating client development in a multicultural society (6th ed.). Toronto: Nelson Thomson.

Kuckartz, U. (2006). Computer-assisted analysis of qualitative data (U. Kuckartz, Trans.). In A. Diekmann (Ed.), Methoden der sozialforschung (pp. 453-478). Wiesbaden, Germany: VS-Verlag.

Kuckartz, U. (2007a, May). Data display and visualization in qualitative data analysis. Paper presented at Visual Knowledge Sociology; Berlin, Science Forum at the Gendarmenmarkt conference, Berlin, Germany.

Kuckartz, U. (2007b). MAXQDA 2007 reference manual for Windows 2000 and XP (J. Poppe, Trans.). Marburg, Germany: Verbi Software.

LaRossa, R. (2005). Grounded theory methods and qualitative family research. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(4), 837-857. doi:10.1111/j.1741-3737.2005.00179.x

Matthews, S. H. (2005). Crafting qualitative research articles on marriages and families. Journal of Marriage and Family, 67(4), 799-808.

Meadows, L. M., & Morse, J. M. (2001). Constructing evidence within the qualitative project. In J. M. Morse, J. M. Swanson, & A. J. Kuzel (Eds.), The nature of qualitative evidence (pp. 187-200). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Miles, M. B., & Huberman, A. M. (2004). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Morse, J. M. (1998). Validity by committee. Qualitative Health Research, 8(4), 443-445.

Morse, J. M. (2000). Follow your nose. Qualitative Health Research, 10(5), 579-580. doi:10.1177/10497 3200129118642

Morse, J. M., Barrett, M., Mayan, M., Olson, K., & Spiers, J. (2002). Verification strategies for establishing reliability and validity in qualitative research (PDF- 73 KB). International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 1(2), Article 2. Retrieved October 9, 2008, from

Poland, B. D. (1995). Transcription quality as an aspect of rigor in qualitative research. Qualitative Inquiry, 1(3), 290-310.

Richards, L. (2005). Handling qualitative data: A practical guide. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Richards, L., & Morse, J. M. (2007). Readme first for a user’s guide to qualitative methods (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Rodgers, B. L., & Cowles, K. V. (1993). The qualitative research audit trail: A complex collection of documentation. Research in Nursing and Health, 16(3), 219-226.

Rubin, H. J., & Rubin, H. J. (2005). Qualitative interviewing: The art of hearing data (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Sandelowski, M. (2001). Real qualitative researchers do not count: The use of numbers in qualitative research. Research in Nursing and Health, 24(3), 230-240. doi:10.1002/nur.1025

Strauss, A., & Corbin, J. (1990). Basics of qualitative research: Grounded theory procedures and techniques. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Thompson, L. (1993). Conceptualizing gender in marriage: The case of marital care. Journal of Marriage and the Family, 55(3), 557-569. doi:10.2307/353338

NOTE: The study on which this report is based was funded by a New Scholar’s Internal Grant from Mount Saint Vincent University.

Looking back

1. Three years on: research developments

Research on wedding rituals continues to be an understudied area, except in the area of same-sex families, which is gaining interest. I, too, have extended my interest in families and wedding work to same-sex families (same-sex marriage became legal in Canada in 2005), and I have published some initial papers in this area, with additional papers forthcoming. My work in this area has extended beyond an analysis of simply ‘who did what’ in the wedding planning to also look at factors such as how couples decided to marry and what support they received from various sources, and I have used different theoretical approaches (life course and ecological perspectives) in this research. However, I continue to use similar ways of analysing data and similar functions in MAXQDA, compared to my previous research.

Humble, A. M. (2013). Moving from ambivalence to certainty: Older same-sex couples marry in Canada. Canadian Journal on Aging, 32(2), 131-144.

Humble, A. M.  (2013, November) Same-sex weddings in Canada: An ecological analysis of support. Paper presented at the 75th annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, San Antonio, Texas.

Humble, A. M. (2011, October) Icing on the cake: A qualitative inquiry into older lesbian and gay men’s wedding experiences. Paper presented at the 40th annual scientific and education meeting of the Canadian Association on Gerontology, Ottawa, ON.

I have a research profile at, and at that page, I can see which papers are attracting more interest than others. People tend to be more interested in my original study on gender construction in weddings (Humble, Zvonkovic, & Walker, 2008) than the follow-up study examining remarried couples’ wedding planning experiences (Humble, 2009b, in the Journal of Divorce & Remarriage), which may speak to a broader interest in gender construction as well as lower level of interest in research on remarried couples (or an overemphasis on research examining the effects of divorce or remarriage on children). On a different note, there seems to be almost four times as much interest in my article on ‘technique triangulation’ (Humble, 2009a, in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods) compared to the article reporting on the findings (Humble, 2009b), which I think speaks to a real interest from researchers in seeing more tangible, concrete examples of how data analysis proceeds, compared to the small amount of information usually presented in journal articles.

Humble, A. M. (2009a) Technique triangulation for validation in directed content analysis. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(3), 34–51. Retrieved from http://ejournals. 

Humble, A. M. (2009b) The second time ’round: Remarried couples’ gender construction in wedding planning. Journal of Divorce & Remarriage, 50(4), 260–281. doi:10.1080/10502550902775994

Humble, A. M., Zvonkovic, A. M., & Walker, A. J. (2008) ‘The royal we’: Gender ideology, display, and assessment in wedding work. Journal of Family Issues, 29(1), 3-25. doi:10.1177/0192513X07305900


2. In hindsight

If you were to design and conduct that project now, what would you do differently? Why? (Different method or location? Different theoretical approach? ….)

I would not do anything differently.

What did the project need to be more satisfying to you, more adequately addressing questions that matter?  (Feel free to grump about what you should have done if you’d had adequate time or money!)

I was satisfied with how the project addressed the research question. I was also very pleased that my immersion in the analysis resulted in a greater understanding of qualitative data analysis as well, which was reflected in the paper I published in the International Journal of Qualitative Methods.

3. Software tools

Looking back, could you have used the qualitative software available to you more effectively – and how?

For the most part, I used the software effectively at the time. It is possible, however, that the ‘crosstabs’ function could have performed the rank ordering analysis more quickly instead of the ‘code matrix browser’ function.

How would current versions of software tools have helped?  (The answer may be simple – e.g., not at all! – or quite complex, if new tools have appeared to do what you were unable to do three years ago.)

MAXQDA 11, which was released in December 2012 and which I am just becoming familiar with, has some important improvements over MAXQDA 2007 (the version that I used for the original study) and MAXQDA 10. For example, it has an option called the ‘summary grid’, which could be helpful in generating summaries for various codes and keeping track of the development of my analysis. A researcher can now code directly to audio and video files, although I prefer to code to a transcript so I do not miss anything. The program now allows for administrative rights so that one can password protect a project file, and also control what changes other people can make, which would be particularly helpful for those working in teams (although I was not working on a team for this study). In general, there are some great improvements in this software over the past five years, but the changes would not have had a major impact on the way I carried out the analysis for this study.

 Another chance to express annoyance or despair if all these years on, the available tools still would not do what you needed??

No, I’m happy with the features of the program that I used back in 2008, and I’m happy the great features of the program have continued along with the important improvements. MAXQDA software continues to be my software of choice, particularly because of its ease in using and understanding, and also because of its helpful analysis functions.

Since this project, however, I have thought much further about the use of software in data analysis. I have presented on this topic at the following two conferences:

Humble, A. M. (2012, June) Bells and whistles: A critical examination of qualitative data analysis software. Paper presented at the 29th annual meeting of The Qualitative Analysis Conference, St. John’s, Newfoundland.

Humble, A. M. (2010, November) An introduction to using qualitative data analysis software. Paper presented at the 72nd annual meeting of the National Council on Family Relations, Minneapolis, MN. (Special session presented jointly with Theory Construction and Research Methodology Workshop – a 90-minute presentation).

I also published the following 2012 article (which also includes a trend analysis of published qualitative research in five Family Studies journals over a 20-year period):

Humble, A. M. (2012). Qualitative data analysis software: A call for understanding, detail, intentionality, and thoughtfulness. Journal of Family Theory and Review, 4(2), 122–137. doi:10. 1111/j.1756-2589.2012.00125.x

In this paper, I argue that it is very important to use software programs carefully and intentionally. One must think carefully about which functions they are using and why; the software tools a researcher uses should be driven by her or his analysis rather than by what is offered in the program. 

Aine Humble

 As a young adult fresh out of high school, I started working part-time in the childcare profession (daycare) to earn some money while I focused on competing at a national level in Canada in badminton. My athletic career didn't work out, but I did develop an interest in working with children as a result of my part-time job, which eventually lead to an interest in families, gerontology, and qualitative research.

My postsecondary education began with a diploma in Early Childhood Development. I went on to complete an undergraduate degree in Home Economics, with a major in Family Studies, and a Master's degree in Family Life Education, both at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada. I then worked in academia for three years on the east coast of Canada, during which time I realized I wanted to focus on gender and families for my research. In 1998, I moved to beautiful Oregon, USA, to work on a PhD in Human Development and Family Studies, with a minor in Women Studies, at Oregon State University. In 2002, I was lucky enough to find my way back to the eastern Canadian coast again, and I completed my PhD in 2003. Currently (2020), I am a Professor in the Department of Family Studies and Gerontology at Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

My research focuses on how gender is constructed in families and relationships, and how it affects individuals as they age, particularly with regard to paid and unpaid work. I have also published work about feminist pedagogy, and I find myself increasingly interested in qualitative methodologies and software programs. I have conducted both quantitative and qualitative research (I like to say I "swing both sides"!), but prefer qualitative to quantitative. I am influenced by several paradigms-I identify epistemologically with the social constructivist and critical perspectives, but my writing comes across as more post-positivistic (probably influenced by my quantitative training). I teach a qualitative research class to graduate students; I love how challenging this course is and I enjoy seeing how students relate to and learn about qualitative research.

I have both a faculty profile and a profile at our university library's e-commons that I invite you to visit. I can also be contacted at

Aine Humble