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Linking Themes and Building Conceptual Models by Memoing

Once you have a set of themes coded in a set of texts, the next step is to identify how themes are linked to each other in a theoretical model (Miles and Huberman 1994:134-37). Memoing is the key to doing this. In memoing, you continually write down your thoughts about what you’re reading. These thoughts become information on which to develop theory. Memoing is taking ‘‘field notes’’ on observations about texts. The observations can be about the themes that you see emerging or your ideas about how the themes are connected. The important thing is, just as with ethnographic field notes, to get your thoughts down as you have them (Corbin and Strauss 2008:117-41).

Once a model starts to take shape, start shopping for negative cases—ones that don’t fit the pattern. Suppose you comb through a set of narratives from women in the labor market. Some women say that they got upset with their last job and quit. You find that most of the women who did this have husbands who earn a pretty good living. Now you have a take-this-job-and-shove-it category. Is there a case in which a woman says ‘‘You know, I’d be outta this crummy job in a minute if I didn’t have two kids at home to take care of’’? Don’t wait for that case to come to you. Go looking for it. This is theoretical sampling.

Negative cases either disconfirm parts of a model or suggest new connections that need to be made. In either case, negative cases need to be accommodated when you present your results (Further Reading: negative case analysis).

 
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