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Analyze! Crafting Your Data in Qualitative Research

Jens Rennstam David Wästerfors


Original title: Från stoff till studie – om analysarbete i kvalitativ forskning © Studentlitteratur, Lund 2015

Copying prohibited This book is protected by the Swedish Copyright Act. Apart from the restricted rights for teachers and students to copy material for educational purposes, as regulated by the Bonus Copyright Access agreement, any copying is prohibited. For information about this agreement, please contact your course coordinator or Bonus Copyright Access. Should this book be published as an e-book, the e-book is protected against copying. Anyone who violates the Copyright Act may be prosecuted by a public prosecutor and sentenced either to a fine or to imprisonment for up to 2 years and may be liable to pay compensation to the author or to the rightsholder. Studentlitteratur publishes digitally as well as in print formats. Studentlitteratur’s printed matter is sustainably produced, as regards both paper and the printing process.

Art. No 39956 ISBN 978-91-44-12705-7 First edition 1:1 © Studentlitteratur 2018 studentlitteratur.se Studentlitteratur AB, Lund Translation: Rikard Ehnsiö Cover design: Jens Martin/Signalera Cover illustration and pp. 7, 67 and 181: Shutterstock.com Printed by GraphyCems, Spain 2018


Contents Preface 5 Part I Introduction 1 Why Analyze? 9 Motives for qualitative analytical work  11 Overview and directions for reading 24 2 Analytical Tracks 27 Kvale and the interviewee’s lifeworld 29 Charmaz and systematic grounding in empirical facts  32 Alvesson and research with a “point” 38 Silverman and naturally occurring data 42 Baker and membership-creating interviews 47 Emerson and excerpt-commentary units 51 Gubrium and Holstein – whats and hows 55 Riessman and narrative analysis 59 Summary  65 Part II Analysis in practice 3 Sorting 69 Whats and hows 71 Spend time with the material 83 The rhetorical power of a sorted order 91 Sorting for analytical induction 96 Re-sorting and re-analyzing 101 The risky undertaking of sorting 102 Summary 105

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4 Reducing 107 Categorical reduction 109 Illustrative reduction 116 Stories as a reduction principle 123 Critical incidents and key incidents 134 Summary 141 5 Arguing 143 Theorizing as empirically grounded argumentation 144 Arguing with and against previous knowledge 148 Arguing by means of empirical data – a stylistic model 155 Analogies 164 Arguments in society 170 Summary 178 Part III Conclusion 6 Summary and conclusions 183 Analysis as a creative craft 185 Advice 189 References 195 Index 203

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Why Analyze?

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This book is about analytical work in qualitative research – in other words, the efforts carried out by researchers and students in trying to make sense of qualitative data (commonly, interview transcripts, field notes, images and various types of texts). We imagine a researcher or student sitting in front of a collected qualitative material, asking him- or herself: “And now what?” It is at this stage, when the fieldwork is starting to transform into becoming an analysis, that our book is the most useful. The term make sense of (as in “make sense of qualitative data”) may be replaced by others: understand, explain, explore, structure, account for, interpret, theorize. We have written this book in an academic setting where students and colleagues use different terms for describing their relationship with qualitative material. Someone may try to stay clear of the term “explain” and instead argue in favor of “understand” or take exception to “structure” and instead choose “theorize,” and so on. There is no agreement as to what an analyst really does in the sense that all researchers and students subscribe to the same definition.1 1 There would most likely be no point in such an agreement. Diversity not only guarantees exciting research, but also ensures that the debate related to methodology and the theory of science never ends. As long as there is (some) disagreement, the current debates receive a continuous supply of fuel.

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However, we argue that there are nevertheless some common features. These may be formulated as: Researchers or students working with qualitative material normally need to address at least three problems. The first is the problem of chaos. There is no order in the material! Notes and printouts are all over our desk or in our computer, even though the collection process was fairly structured. The second is the problem of representation. It is not possible to reproduce all of this material in the study! Some things need to be emphasized at the expense of other things – in fact, the bulk has to be placed “inside brackets.” The third is the problem of authority – the difficulty in asserting ourselves in relation to other researchers and “pundits.” What can we actually say on the basis of this material? Is there really anything new and relevant here? In order to address these recurring problems, we propose three activities: sorting, reducing and arguing. If the researcher or student successfully manages to divide or categorize the material, put what is irrelevant or peripheral in this particular context aside and construct a convincing framework for argumentation on the basis of the material – well, then the analytical work is in a good position to be fruitful. All forms of analysis to some extent seem to involve (or at least touch upon) these three activities, regardless of the design and assumptions of the study. A researcher or student feeling at a loss when facing analysis may thus find it useful to start sorting, reducing and arguing. This could be done in this particular order or in a different order, and there are many different ways of carrying out these activities. But when or if we feel confused, when we do not know what to do, or maybe just feel a bit unimaginative, well, then we may benefit from engaging in these three activities.

This is more or less how one might phrase the message of this book. You may read the remainder of the book as a further elaboration on the above summary, as a methodological essay on these three activities. In other words, the point of this book is communicated already at this stage. The remainder of the book focuses on the details of sorting, reducing and arguing. We show how to carry out the analytical process and

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how the creation of theory may take place on the basis of qualitative material. We ask ourselves just how systematic an analysis may actually be, we address the significance of imagination, creativity and a joy for interpretation, and we discuss various ways of doing away with predictable and conventional approaches. In order to identify a terminology related to analytical work, we introduce a number of authorities in relation to methodology, while also comparing different traditions with one another. Our goal is to offer a glimpse into the “black box” of analytical work. That is why we to a large extent use our own studies as examples. There is a risk that some readers may find that we focus too much on our own projects, but we argue that this constitutes a prerequisite for being able to present the details of analytical work. We know more about how we have performed our own analyses compared to the work of others and we hope that our discussions on our own analyses represent one of the strengths of this book.

Motives for qualitative analytical work It is also possible to introduce this kind of book in other ways. At what stage are you “sitting in front of” a qualitative material? That is hardly a self-evident situation. The question is why we should be “sitting in front of” this type of material. Why even collect qualitative data? Why, as phrased by Ahrne and Svensson (2011, p. 17), should we bother with asking people or engaging them in discussions? Why should we “be there and watch and observe” what people do or say, or study their texts, images or other traces? There are intelligent and established answers to these questions. It is commonly claimed that qualitative methodology serves to understand social interactions and the meaning of social phenomena in the contexts in which they are created. It is also emphasized that qualitative methodology has been developed for studying things that cannot be explained by means of numbers. The purpose of qualitative studies is not to measure how much and how many, but rather to understand

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processes, meanings and qualities, such as “how power is exercised, how decisions are made, why people protest, how creative environments arise, how people get to know and understand one another or how conflicts arise” (Ahrne & Svensson 2011, p. 14). We agree that qualitative analysis serves this purpose. In a qualitative spirit, we here analyze the significance of conflicts at a correctional facility, how discourses affect what it means to be deaf, how engineering work is controlled and how brand orientation affects society and organizations. However, it is also possible to discuss the value of qualitative analysis based on the motivation of different analysts. The student or researcher should have an interest in collecting qualitative material. If the analyst “does not feel like” performing qualitative research, if he or she does not see any particular purpose in using qualitative material, then the analytical work will most likely turn out to be somewhat of a drag. As a matter of fact, in some contexts qualitative research has actually become a norm that may be viewed as a prison by the individual student or researcher. This is probably not particularly motivating. We have supervised students more than once who have let out a big sigh when tasked with making observations or carrying out interviews for a thesis. “What’s the purpose?” “The results will be so insignificant.” Let us thus discuss some hopefully energizing answers to the question “why study?” as this question may be asked in relation to a number of qualitative studies. This is based on three works: Konsten att lyckas som par [The Art of Being a Successful Couple] (Eldén 2009), Everyday Arias (Atkinson 2006) and the call for qualitative studies on work made by Stephen R. Barley and Gideon Kunda in their article “Bringing Work Back In.”

Delving into popular phenomena At the beginning of her study on popular therapy, Sara Eldén (2009, p. 9–12) starts off in contemporary life. More accurately, she starts off by looking at TV shows on partner relationships involving popular ­therapy. 12

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Eldén claims that it has become common to expose partnerships and subject them to thorough counselling from a plethora of experts: psycho­logists, therapists, coaches, family counselors or celebrities. The problems in these relationships are to be resolved in full view of the viewers. A “before” is followed by an “after,” where the relationship is assumed to have been saved or improved by the counseling and where the viewers are expected to have learned something for themselves. Eldén (2009, p. 9) asks: Which perception is created regarding heterosexual partnerships in popular therapeutic phenomena such as self-help books and TV shows focusing on couples? Which types of ideals and visions are created with regard to living as a couple and what, conversely, is viewed as problematic? Which assumptions regarding the couple, the individual, the expert and not least gender are made in the ­narrative being constructed in relation to this?

Here is a clear motive for engaging in qualitative research. These questions – based on curiosity regarding a phenomenon all of us are most likely familiar with – cannot be answered without using qualitative material. The analyst needs to “get into” the self-help books, TV shows and their online forums. Her curiosity concerning the phenomenon “therapy for couples in popular forms” leads the author to delve into the manifestations of this phenomenon in order to arrive at any conclusions. Formulating a motive for engaging in qualitative research could probably not be easier. What is going on here? What does it mean? It is implied that we cannot know for sure what is going on here and what it means, even if we have a hunch. It would be rash for us to conclude even before the study which “view of heterosexual partnerships” is found in popular therapy or, for that matter, its ideals and visions regarding gender. We have not yet studied this carefully or systematically. Hence, it becomes tempting to engage in using qualitative material, even if other researchers have most likely studied similar things in the past. We suspect that this thing is not yet fully studied and that we have

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something to offer in this regard. Of course, we may never be completely certain, but this feeling may still offer motivation for our work. The formula becomes: Take a familiar phenomenon in your surroundings and ask yourself: “What is going on here?” and “What does it mean?”2 As Eldén continues to elaborate in her introduction, more specific motives come into view. She claims that today’s society is characterized by an extensive psychologization (Eldén 2009, p. 10). Concepts such as self-confidence, self-esteem, trauma, “work on yourself” or “find yourself” have become commonplace in the media and everyday conversations. This psychologization is based on a notion that the individual should “manage” him- or herself and confront his or her problems, which in fact creates a degree of tension in relation to couples therapy. Here, the focus is on the couple and not the individual. Autonomy is de-emphasized, at least as long as the objective is to ensure that the couple stays together. So, couples therapy characterized by popular culture may thus articulate a “tension between couple and individual,” which in Eldén’s view (Eldén 2009, p. 10f.) made this all the more interesting to study. Within this phenomenon, we find a contradiction based on the trend of psychologization. Whose interests should be emphasized? Is it possible to reconcile what is best for the couple with what is best for the two individuals, as far as those participating in the therapy see it? A similar interest, Eldén points out, is found among famous theorists in the field of sociology, such as Anthony Giddens (1995), Ulrich Beck and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim (1995, 2002). For these scholars, self-help books and other “reflective resources” represent anything but an irrelevant type of material. On the contrary, studying this type of material enables us to study social changes in great detail. “Marriage, which used to be characterized by predictability, distinct gender roles 2 According to Peter L. Berger (1963, p. 25), the same types of questions constitute a basic approach for sociologists. What do people do with each other in this context? What is their relationship? In which ways are these relationships organized in institutions? Which collective notions govern people and institutions? By asking such questions, Berger argues, a boundless interest in people’s words and actions may be realized.

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and inequality, has now been replaced by a relationship without any finished script” (Eldén 2009, p. 11). The key words here are “without any finished script.” Popular culture is constantly trying to provide us with scripts, precisely as a result of the shackles of tradition finally (?) being loosened. “Finished scripts” are constantly produced in a society where nothing is no longer set in stone. This includes public couples therapy. Hence, Eldén is sniffing out a general social phenomenon: how traditions are replaced by other norms. Eldén (2009, p. 11f.) also links popular therapy to feminist research interests, particularly with regard to gender equality. Self-help books and therapy shows on TV represent a kind of cultural narrative regarding couples that, on the one hand, cherishes gender equality, while on the other hand replicating a gender order that is taken for granted. By including empirical material from online forums – where readers discuss the therapy and sometimes object to it – Eldén is able to demonstrate this conflict, but also identify movements within it. The readers display a certain interactive dynamic in relation to the “script” produced by the therapists. Posters may, for instance, attack representations in self-help books, where women are expected to take care of the children and the household while men exercise and look after the car, and they may offer harsh criticism of mothers-in-law who have spoiled their sons and use this as support for their view that the man in a relationship has not learned how to perform household chores. “Did you find him sitting in the safe arms of his mother,” the alias elisabet writes in an online discussion, “with full service? You’re going to be putting in some hard work with 3 children in the family” (Eldén 2009, p. 198). Eldén’s answer to the question “Why study?” is thus focused on both society and the world of academia at the same time. The selected material is relevant both due to the fact that it represents an example of a striking phenomenon in our society and due to the fact that the same type of data have already been theorized by researchers in books and journals, at conferences and in classrooms. However, despite these theorizations, questions still remain to be answered. Implicitly, Eldén’s material also appeals to the quite rudimentary

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interest in society all of us probably experience when we, in our everyday lives, “study” magazines and evening papers, entertainment and health articles, reality shows and makeover shows on TV. Part of the fun is studying what others are watching and reading, what characterizes our time. In this pursuit, we may roll our eyes or seriously consider the nuggets of wisdom being shared, but perhaps this is less important. Nevertheless, we relate to this production of media and thus confirm its relevance. That is how we recognize Eldén’s selection. We have encountered this before in our everyday lives, but we have not analyzed it. To summarize so far, one could say that there are different motives for engaging in qualitative research:

■■ to delve into and explain current changes in society ■■ to explore qualities in a particular phenomenon: What is going on here? What do people do with each other? What does it mean?

■■ to in detail study tensions or contradictions within and surrounding a particular phenomenon

■■ to identify and study the gender order in a seemingly gender neutral arena

■■ to capture and theorize cultural expressions in our current society. Basic research on social actions In addition to these types of motives, one might consider Paul Atkinson’s (2006) ethnographic study on the world of opera. Here, we find a more subtle and relaxed setting, written in a personal style. Atkinson has studied the Welsh National Opera by observing the actual production process during rehearsals. He tries to show how an opera production comes into being by means of collective action, namely how the stunning and extraordinary performance during opening night has been preceded by a long series of difficult negotiations between artists and producers. Behind the glamourous ecstasy of the production, we find extremely unglamorous rehearsals, where each microscopic step and gesture is perfected. Small episodes are repeated in detail, again and again, until 16

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the producer is satisfied or becomes resigned to the fact that they cannot be improved (Atkinson 2006, p. 118). The artists adapt their steps, voices and facial expressions in a laborious effort to negotiate a collective performance. “No, no, try it again! The tone should be more agitated.” With regard to Atkinson’s motives for engaging in this study, however, there are no arguments of the type “opera is now found in all sectors of society” or “opera concerns all of us.” Atkinson is not trying to sell his subject matter in this way. Nor does he make any comparisons to the interest in opera of other scholars or attempts to demonstrate that opera serves as a particularly apt reflection of a social development. Instead, Atkinson tells the reader how his interest in opera has been useful for studying a basic social phenomenon that has tickled his interest for a long time: performance, human performances in front of one another. Atkinson’s interest in opera as a student ended up completely outside his anthropological and sociological research for twenty years. Instead, Atkinson spent the bulk of his time studying medical training and medical environments, and the step from this type of focus and studying opera may initially seem quite far. However, the link was performance. In his studies on medical students, as it turns out, Atkinson was interested in the same social forms he would later start to identify in the world of opera. For example, he studied the “holy processions” of the medical students in the hospital, their displays of medical rationality, their almost theatrical identifications of symptoms and their staged ways of making diagnoses. In this manner, he writes, there is no clear dividing line between medical ethnography and opera ethnography. The interest in how social actors realize and “produce” themselves – the dramaturgy of everyday life (Goffman 1959/1991) – links one to the other. Collecting material on how an opera production is realized, gives Atkinson an excellent basis for explaining precisely the aspect of human interactions he has been interested in all along. The fact that the environments are so different – the “scene” of the medical students and the scene of the opera – may also allow us to identify what is universal. Sure, the Welsh National Opera appears to be a particular environment, but

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the conclusions made by Atkinson do not have to be limited to this. We create and recreate our identities by means of performances, he argues, and the same applies to organizations and institutions: In an important sense, theatricality and dramaturgy are pervasive features of everyday life and work. We do not just happen to be who we are; we create and re-create who we are by enacting ourselves. Likewise, social organizations and institutions do not just happen day by day: they too are enactments. (Atkinson 2006, p. 152)

A further link between Atkinson’s earlier medical ethnographies and his opera ethnography is his interest in methodology, which he defines in almost ethical terms. Observing, and thus trying to document what people are doing (and how they do it), in his view represents a deep involvement in people’s work, environment and everyday life. This is not just about a research method, but about a wider and personal commitment to put yourself in a type of situation that enables an understanding of human action. So, in Atkinson too we find an answer to the question “why study?”, even though we perhaps mainly read it between the lines. His qualitative material (ethnographic field notes from the Welsh National Opera) is portrayed as needed. Without it, it is hardly possible to say anything at all concerning opera performances as a collective action. We can hardly assume how a musical drama is created and prepared, and we can hardly study this using only questionnaires or official statistics. Of course, we may speculate, but this would quickly turn into a cliché – a hodgepodge of general perceptions (e.g., performance anxiety, prima donna behaviors, stage fright). If we seriously want to understand how opera productions “come into being,” the type of material collected by Atkinson is particularly relevant. He not only attends the premiere to enjoy the finished piece, but he observes rehearsals, talks to the artists, participates in their meetings, lunches and parties, and so on. Using his analytical framework – his interest in everyday dramaturgy and performance – this material also becomes relevant for studying a

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large number of additional cultural phenomena and, by extension, all forms of professional life. Atkinson wants to strike a blow for ethnographic studies on cultural phenomena in general, in order to capture the social organization and collective actions that create and support the particular phenomenon. At this stage, we may add a few more motives for engaging in quali­ tative research:

■■ to broaden the meaning of a particular concept (e.g., performance) by placing it in new contexts, or using a context we personally find interesting in order to explore the concept

■■ to explore how a certain phenomenon is “done” (e.g., how an opera comes into being)

■■ to illustrate and specify how people, institutions and organizations perceive each other

■■ to put ourselves in an “ethnographic situation” (in a close interaction with members of the field) to enable us to understand human action where it actually occurs

■■ to provide a detailed characterization of collective action. There is no contrast between Eldén and Atkinson; there are similarities and common interests. The point here is not to paint a picture where one motive for engaging in qualitative research excludes another. On the contrary, and despite the different varieties, Eldén and Atkinson (and countless other researchers) are united in the fact that they enthusiastically use qualitative material. Given their points of departure, questions, framing of problems, backgrounds, readings and the framework of their particular field, working with qualitative material and trying to analyze it is far from unnecessary or unjustified. On the contrary, it is reasonable and fun! This is the spirit in which we hope our book will be read. We also note that both Eldén and Atkinson avoid a common but somewhat clichéd motivation for engaging in qualitative studies: to capture the “perspective of the subject.” Even though there may be good reasons for highlighting the voices of others (such as the voices of

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the marginalized in society), claiming to fully represent the authentic perspective, position or subjectivity of another individual or group is problematic. Silverman (2010) belongs to those who believe that such an ambition is romantic and far too close to a journalistic approach. (See Chapter 2 for a further development of his argument.)3 The motives we have highlighted by means of Eldén and Atkinson instead exhibit a desire to study society and “the social,” to gather evidence for our claims and develop them on the basis of this evidence, to follow our personal curiosity and have the courage to challenge truths that are taken for granted. This is a desire we ought to respect and cultivate.

Methodological frustration A third set of motives for engaging in qualitative studies involves what we might refer to as methodological frustration. The work carried out by organizational scholars Stephen R. Barley and Gideon Kunda may serve as an illustration. Perhaps going a little bit too far, Barley and Kunda argue that we do not know all that much about how work in organizations has changed since the 1970s, since researchers have not engaged in qualitative analyses regarding members of organizations and their work. They seem frustrated by this methodological shortcoming. They point out that the academic community has noticed many changes, even though these are measured quantitatively and relate to a structural level (Barley & Kunda 2001, p. 76f.):

3 Critics of what Silverman refers to as romantic motives (particularly in interview studies) tend to emphasize that people’s subjectivity is better captured if the researcher follows people’s interactions and their social contexts. Trying to “lift out” and isolate their “voices” represents a shakier project. On the other hand, trying to capture the stories, statements and use of discourse of the subjects normally does not face anti-romantic criticism, since such motives result in a clear framework for the empirical material and do not allow for this material to be isolated from social forms or society at large.

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■■ traditional factory work has decreased, whereas service, technical, professional and so-called “knowledge-intensive” work has increased

■■ terms of employment are becoming increasingly unstable and people tend to change jobs more frequently

■■ we use an increasing amount of information technology in the workplace

■■ being able to cooperate in cross-functional teams is considered increasingly important. All of this is interesting, Barley and Kunda argue, but the lack of qualitative studies related to work has resulted in rash conclusions. On the basis of structural and quantitatively measurable changes, it has been assumed that new forms of organizations exist. And, furthermore, the new forms are also portrayed as being the opposite of the old ones (a phenomenon Barley and Kunda refer to as conceptual inversion). Until the 1970s, the dominant notion was that organizations represented “bureaucracies” with clear hierarchies, specialized tasks and rules for what ought to be done and how to do it. On the basis of structural changes, it was then quite suddenly assumed that organizations are not bureaucracies, but flat (non-hierarchical) “networks” of actors. Likewise, the quantitatively measured changes are seen as evidence that careers these days are “boundaryless,” whereas they used to be limited to the bureaucracy in which the individual was working. These conclusions are opposed by Barley and Kunda (2001). They argue that the interesting question is not whether or not organizations and careers have boundaries – organizations and careers always have boundaries – but rather how they are drawn. Even if people change jobs more frequently and a single organization more rarely represents a platform for an individual’s career, it is misleading to refer to careers as boundaryless. And even if organizations interact with more actors today, one cannot assume that they have all undergone a transformation from bureaucracies into flat networks. One could say that Barley and Kunda are methodologically frus-

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trated. They criticize researchers making qualitative conclusions based on quantitative changes and their article may be read as a call to engage in qualitative studies for analyzing these quantitative changes. In order to answer questions concerning how work and organizations have changed, not only do we need to count how many more or fewer factory workers or doctors there are, how frequently people change jobs, the proportion of people working who have a university degree and so on. We also need to analyze how occupational practices and discourses have changed and what this means for those working and for the organization as a whole.4 What does it mean for a worker that he or she may no longer expect that a single organization will serve as a platform for his or her entire career? What characterizes “cooperation in cross-functional teams,” “increased use of IT” and “knowledge-intensive work,” and what does it mean for those working? Understanding this necessitates getting close to a real-life setting. We need to talk to people, observe them and study their texts. It is important to note that the methodological frustration of Barley and Kunda should not be seen as a criticism of quantitative studies. On the contrary, they base their work on quantitative changes in order to frame research questions requiring a deeper or further analysis. In other words, the lesson here is that interesting quantitative facts or changes may frequently serve as a point of departure for qualitative analyses. Hence, we may continue to add to our list over motives for engaging in qualitative research:

■■ to challenge rash conclusions concerning a phenomenon (e.g., “flat networks” or “boundaryless careers”)

■■ to explore practices and processes during, within or behind quantitatively measured changes

4 Barley and his colleagues have realized their call in studies on the work of engineers (see, for instance, Barley 1996, 2005; Bechky 2006). Rennstam’s (2007, 2012) studies on engineers, which are frequently used as examples in this book, have also been influenced by the arguments of Barley and Kunda to a great extent.

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■■ to explore what these changes mean for the actors involved ■■ to disentangle an established fact (e.g., “increased use of IT” and “more knowledge-intensive work”) and explain this in more concrete terms

■■ to explore how social mechanisms (e.g., increased use of IT) drive changes in society. The list can be made much longer – there are plenty of reasons for ­carrying out qualitative research. Our ambition with presenting the above review is to awaken or strengthen the reader’s interest in analyzing qualitative material. Hopefully, we have provided further insight into what it entails to study social phenomena in a context, how these are created and what they mean. In light of the above “call” for qualitative analysis, it may be advisable to emphasize that having a good motive for carrying out a study does not always mean that this involves academically viable problems or research questions.5 Even if research frequently originates in new phenomena found in society or organizations, or in social or organizational problems (Bryman 2011), these are not the same as research questions. What characterizes research questions is that they are formulated in relation to existing literature in the area (Silverman 1993; Styhre 2013). A social question thus needs to be made into a research question. Scholars frame these questions by identifying shortcomings in the existing literature; for example, that this phenomenon has not been analyzed to a large extent despite the fact that it is considered important, or that there are good reasons for analyzing the phenomenon from a new

5 For those wanting to learn more about academic problems and research questions, there are plenty of books, such as Holme & Solvang (1997), Bryman (2011), Alvehus (2013) and Styhre (2013).

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perspective (e.g., Alvehus 2013; Bryman 2011; Holme & Solvang 1997).6 Without any reference to existing literature, one may ask: “What does it mean to be a man in an industry dominated by women?” But in order for this question to be seen as part of a theoretical quandary, it needs to be formulated in relation to the literature on gender and organizations.

Overview and directions for reading For the reader wanting to choose his or her own order in which to read this book, or who just wants to get a grip of the book as a whole, we here provide a short description of the structure of the book.7 In Chapter 2, Analytical Tracks, we present different authorities in the field of methodology. However, this presentation is not to be seen as exhaustive. It is characterized by our background and field of expertise (business administration and sociology), but also presents a number of key ideas that have had a great deal of influence on the debate on qualitative methodology. The purpose of this chapter is to create a foundation for understanding the more concrete examples provided in the following chapters. One may simply read this chapter from beginning to end in order to understand this foundation, but one may also return to it as we refer to these notions in the following three chapters.

6 Just like when it comes to analytical work, there are no simple recipes for framing problems and formulating research questions. Instead, it is a process of “imagination and the ability to think creatively” (Holme & Solvang 1997, p. 38). Johan Asplund (1970, 2002) offers a beautiful way of discussing the framing of a problem. He draws an analogy to creating mysteries and picture puzzles. Alvesson and Kärreman (2007a, 2012), who have probably been inspired by Asplund to a large extent, also describe the framing of problems in terms of creating mysteries (and analysis in terms of solving mysteries, to which we return in Chapter 2). Alvesson also believes that a functioning framing of a problem challenges and points out ambiguities in current perceptions concerning a phenomenon (Alvesson & Sandberg 2011). 7 As a whole, the book has been written by the two authors together, each putting in the same amount of work. Responsibility for the basic writing of each chapter has varied. David Wästerfors has written the basis for Chapter 3, whereas Jens Rennstam has written the basis for Chapter 4. Both have been responsible for different sections in Chapters 1, 2 and 5. After that, the book has been written in close cooperation between the two authors.

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Chapters 3, 4 and 5 represent the core of the book. Chapter 3 concerns how one may go about sorting when faced with a diverse range of collected data, while Chapter 4 concerns how one may reduce the material in order to create a manageable representation of it. Chapter 5 concerns how one may use the material in order to argue with or against other authorities who have performed studies in the same area. It is worth emphasizing that these three chapters are intended to illustrate a number of approaches and notions that we find useful. That is not to say that there are no other ways. In the concluding chapter, we look upon analytical work as creative craftsmanship and this perspective emphasizes a certain level of room for maneuver. The metaphor of “craftsmanship” describes both the systematic and the creative aspects of qualitative research.

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Jens Rennstam is an associate professor of business administration and David Wästerfors is an associate professor of sociology, both at Lund University. They have extensive experience of teaching, supervising and doing qualitative research.

Analyze! Crafting Your Data in Qualitative Research Is there an easy way to analyze interviews, observations and documents? The answer is no. Analytical work is notoriously multilayered and there is undoubtedly more than one approach. But this book shows how it can go more smoothly. The authors maintain that all analysis involves three activities: sorting, reducing and arguing. If the researcher or student can sort and organize the material, cut out what is irrelevant (or “zoom out” from what is peripheral) and formulate an argument based on the material – well, then they have a good chance of succeeding. These three activities make it easier to walk the winding but exciting road from material to manuscript. The book discusses analytical craftsmanship and its ambition to theorize. The authors’ aim is that their sound advice and illustrative examples will infuse enthusiasm into the creative analytical work.

Art.nr 39956

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