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Text Analysis II: Schema Analysis, Grounded Theory, Content Analysis, and Analytic Induction

Unlike the methods in chapter 18, the methods in this chapter rely more on coding text for themes and then analyzing the themes for patterns. Schema analysis and grounded theory are mostly in the inductive tradition of social science, while content analysis and analytic induction are mostly in the deductive tradition. I say ‘‘mostly’’ because even the choice of what to study comes from some theoretical position, so right off the bat, the inductive-deductive divide is a bit arbitrary.

All of the methods in this chapter are supported by software. More about this as we move along. First, let’s talk about coding text for themes.

Coding Themes

Coding turns free-flowing texts into a set of nominal variables (what statisticians mean, by the way, when they use the phrase “qualitative data’’). In a set of texts about the experience of divorce, people do or do not talk about what to do about pension funds; they do or do not talk about how their children are taking it; they do or do not talk about their relations with their former in-laws; and so on.

Where do you stop? There is practically no end to the number of themes you can isolate for any text. When I was in high school, my physics teacher put a bottle of Coca- Cola on his desk and challenged our class to come up with interesting ways to describe that bottle. Each day for weeks that bottle sat on his desk as new physics lessons were reeled off, and each day new suggestions for describing that bottle were dropped on the desk on the way out of class.

I don’t remember how many descriptors we came up with, but there were dozens. Some were pretty lame (pour the contents into a beaker and see if the boiling point was higher or lower than that of sea water) and some were pretty imaginative (cut off the bottom and test its magnifying power), but the point was to show us that there was no end to the number of things we could describe (measure) about that Coke bottle, and the point sank in. I remember it every time I try to code a text (box 19.1).

 
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