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ANALYZING PILE SORT DATA

Begin a pile sort task by writing the name of each item on a single card (index cards work nicely). Label the back of each card with the number from 1 to n (where n is the total number of items in the domain). Spread the cards out randomly on a large table with the item-side up and the number-side down. (Be sure to shuffle the deck between informants.) Ask informants to sort the cards into piles according to which items they think belong together.

Figure 16.2 shows the pile sort data for one male informant who sorted the names of

FIGURE 16.2.

Pile sort data from one person for 18 fruits.

SOURCE: H. R. Bernard and G. W. Ryan, Analyzing Qualitative Data: Systematic Approaches. Los Angeles: Sage Publications. 2010. p. 173. Used by permission.

18 fruits. It also shows the format for recording the pile sort data. Pile #1 contained items 2, 11, and 13. In other words, this informant put the cards for orange, lemon, and grapefruit into one pile.

Table 16.2 shows the data from figure 16.2 in the form of a similarity matrix, similar to the one you saw in chapter 15.

When the informant put items 2, 11, and 13 (orange, lemon, grapefruit) into a pile, he did so because he thought the items were similar. To indicate this, there is a 1 in the matrix where items 2 and 11 intersect; another 1 in the cell where items 2 and 13 intersect; and another 1 in the cell where 11 and 13 intersect.

Similarly for Pile #2: There is a 1 in the 1-5 cell, the 1-9 cell, the 1-14 cell, and so on. There are 0s in all the cells that represent no similarity of a pair of items (for this informant) and 1s down the diagonal (since items are similar to themselves). Notice that if 11 is similar to 13, then 13 is similar to 11, so this particular matrix is also symmetric. In a

Table 16.2 Similarity Matrix from One Person's Pile Sorting of the 18 Fruits

7

AP

2

OR

3

PA

4

MA

5

PE

6

BL

7

WA

8

PI

9

PE

10

ST

77

LE

12

CA

73

GR

14

PL

75

BA

16

AV

77

FI

18

CH

1

APPLE

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

2

ORANGE

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

3

PAPAYA

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

4

MANGO

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

5

PEACH

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

6

BLUEBERRY

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

7

WATERMELON

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

8

PINEAPPLE

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

9

PEAR

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

10

STRAWBERRY

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

11

LEMON

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

12

CANTALOUPE

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

13

GRAPEFRUIT

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

14

PLUM

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

15

BANANA

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

16

AVOCADO

0

0

1

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

17

FIG

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

18

CHERRY

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

1

0

0

0

0

1

0

0

1

1

symmetric matrix, the bottom and top halves (above and below the diagonal of 1s) are identical (box 16.2).

BOX 16.2

GETTING PILE-SORT DATA INTO A COMPUTER

ANTHROPAC is a DOS program, but it's still the easiest way I know to import pile sort data into a computer for analysis. Once you have pile sort data into a computer, you can use any major statistical package to analyze the matrices. I use UCINET, a windows program, because it shares files with ANTHROPAC. Any data you import with ANTHROPAC is available to UCINET for analysis. UCINET also can export data as an Excel file, so you can use the data in your favorite statistics program.

 
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