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Qualitative analysis is not a soft option – a quick chat with author Pat Bazeley

04 April 2013 - BY Pat Bazeley

Qualitative data is messy. Cleaning-up or making sense of the 'mess' can seem challenging, confusing and a little intense - particularly if you're new to qualitative methods.

In her latest book, Qualitative Data Analysis Practical Strategies, Pat combines hands-on advice with plenty of examples to turn the daunting process of qual research into something exciting, stimulating and ultimately achievable.


"Pat Bazeley has produced what is sure to become a core text for those working with qualitative data. She covers the whole process from first ideas through to explanatory models and theories… This excellent book is a thorough and entertaining resource that will be of use to both the novice and the more experienced researcher."

Richard Freeman, Doctoral School, Institute of Education, University of London

In this post, Pat shares some insights on the new book and on her role as an author.

What inspired you to write this book?

Actually I was asked to write it.

SAGE were looking for someone who could write in the same kind of practical, down-to-earth  style that characterised the work of Matthew Miles and Michael Huberman, and as a consequence of the (unanticipated) strong positive response to my book on using NVivo for qualitative analysis, they thought maybe I could do it.

Miles and Huberman's (1994) text had always been a favourite of mine (and for many others around the world), and so I jumped at the opportunity. It also provided me with a much needed excuse at the time to slow down my consulting business - I was exhausted!

Who is it for?

Anyone who is engaging with qualitative data, or thinking  of doing so, whether inside or outside of the academy, but I guess it's especially relevant to upper undergraduate and graduate students, and to academics. It doesn't presume prior training in qualitative methods, but at the same time, it demands serious intent.

What are the key messages?

Qualitative analysis is not a soft option. Qualitative analysis is more than 'identifying themes' - always challenge your data and your conclusions to prompt deeper understanding. And enjoy the process! Research (and writing) that generates fresh insights has moments of drudgery, but it is also stimulating and exciting.

How do you approach the writing process?

I research whatever I'm writing about quite thoroughly - reading other's work nearly always sparks new thoughts and ideas. I make notes. When I get an idea of something I want to write about, I record it. I drop any ideas I have under headings in a document - these start off being very messy, but eventually they get sorted and refined into prose (I use Word's document map and outline view extensively).

I'm also quite pedantic about spelling, punctuation, grammar and expression (I was blessed with a fanatical English teacher at school), so usually every sentence and every paragraph will be reworked multiple times until it says what I want it to communicate, and flows well. It is a slow process - on many days I might write only a couple of paragraphs, and I'd rarely write more than a couple of pages in a day.

Writing demands commitment (and sacrifice) - like doing a PhD or any decent piece of research it requires block periods of time so that you can immerse yourself in it, that's when the ideas spark and knotty problems are solved. I basically went without regular income for a couple of years in order to get this book written.

What’s next?

I've just finished going through the production cycle for a new edition (2e) of the NVivo book, co-authored this time by Kristi Jackson, a very experienced trainer from Denver (it will be coming out in April-May).

After two quite large books back-to-back, and most of the last few years writing, I need to catch up on life a bit - get my farm and house back in order, spend time with family, etc. But then I will be focusing, I think, on writing an equivalent book on mixed methods analysis strategies - something I've wanted to do for years, but was put off because of the request to write about qualitative analysis.

You can find out more about Pat's latest book and upcoming publications on the QSR website.