Chapter 5: Data Analysis

Pick out any research topic that interests you. Then:

  • Work out how you could obtain relevant data quickly and easily.
  • Consider whether such data could satisfactorily address your original topic.

Look at today’s comments on any Internet chat room. Now:

1.   Identify the main categories that are used.

2.   Count the frequency with which these categories are used.

3.   Try to group these categories into themes.

4.   Consider what conclusions you can draw from your findings.

This is part of the life story of a Finnish man attending an alcohol clinic, read the extract carefully:

When I was a child, the discipline was very strict. I still remember when my younger brother broke a sugar cup and I was spanked. When my father died, my mother remarried. The new husband did not accept my youngest brother. When I was in the army, my wife was unfaithful to me. After leaving the army, I didn’t come home for two days. I started to drink. And I began to use other women sexually. I drank and I brawled, because I was pissed off and because her treacherousness was in my mind.

When I came to the alcohol clinic, it made me think. I abstained for a year. There was some progress but also bad times. I grew up somewhat. When the therapist changed, I was pissed off and gave it all up.

(Adapted from Alasuutari, 1990)

Now, answer the following questions:  

  1. Following what you have read about grounded theory:
    1. Code the terms through which this person tells his story.
    2. Try to turn your codes into categories.
    3. What other situations might you sample in order to build a grounded theory (about what?)?
  2. Using what you have read about Propp and Greimas, identify the following elements in this story:
    1. Functions (e.g. ‘prohibition’ or ‘violation’)
    2. Spheres of action (e.g. the villain, the provider, the helper, the princess and her father, the dispatcher, the hero and the false hero)
    3. Structures (e.g. subject versus object (this includes ‘hero’ and ‘princess’ or ‘sought-for person’); sender versus receiver (includes ‘father’ and ‘dispatcher’); and helper versus opponent (includes ‘donor’, ‘helper’ and ‘villain’).
  3. What can be said about the sequence of actions reported?
  4. Having done this analysis, what features would you look for in other life stories?
  5. In what kind of a story does the narrator place himself?
  6. How does he position himself to the audience, and vice versa?
  7. How does he position characters in relation to one another, and in relation to himself?
  8. How does he position himself to himself, that is, make identity claims? (Bamberg, 1997, quoted by Riessman, 2011)