In qualitative phenomenological studies, data analysis is based on the idea of thematic analysis that includes several specific steps. According to Braun, Clarke, and Terry (2014), the key phases of thematic analysis are the preparation of data for analysis and familiarization with them, coding, identifying themes, reviewing themes, defining them, and reporting the findings. At the first stage known as the familiarization with data, it is necessary to read the transcripts of conducted and recorded interviews several times to concentrate on the in-depth understanding of narratives. It is important to note that this step allows for ensuring that the collected data are consistent and rigorous to be used for the study.
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The second important step in the thematic analysis is coding that involves assigning labels (words or phrases) to certain parts of the analyzed text to represent the main ideas of interviews. To code phenomenological data effectively, a researcher is expected to practice epoché and avoid focusing on one’s assumptions and experiences while analyzing narratives (Cassol et al., 2018). Furthermore, the coding process should be thorough and inclusive (Braun et al., 2014; Cassol et al., 2018). Coding is a systematic process that requires involving analytical skills, and this process is important to identify a range of prevalent themes associated with African American women’s lived experiences examined in this study. One should note that the data-driven approach to coding should be used for this analysis to ensure that codes or labels come from the analyzed data, but not from outside sources or a researcher’s assumptions.
The third step in data analysis is searching for themes in the collected narratives concerning the determined codes. Themes will be identified with the focus on clusters or groups of codes that can be viewed as thematically related to each other (Braun et al., 2014). According to Vaismoradi, Jones, Turunen, and Snelgrove (2016), the identification of themes is one of the most important steps in the analysis because themes point to the key concepts and repeating ideas presented in narratives, and the focus on these elements or attributes provides a researcher with an opportunity to answer research questions. As a result, using themes, it is possible to represent all codes in the most unified form that is appropriate for further analysis, and certain groups of codes can work as subthemes in this context.
In the fourth step, it is necessary to review the identified themes to guarantee that no significant data were missed, and all provided themes are relevant to the research, and they are not just codes. For this purpose, it is also important to use such techniques as elimination and reduction to avoid any redundancy in themes and unite all codes in several meaningful clusters that are appropriate to answer the set research questions (Braun et al., 2014; Vaismoradi et al., 2016). The review of themes allows a researcher to make sure that all identified categories and clusters of codes are meaningful and appropriate to respond to the study questions.
The next important step in this process of thematic analysis is associated with naming and defining themes. At this stage, it is important to focus on critical analysis of the determining themes and provide the definition for each of these categories while demonstrating the comprehensive analysis of their meanings in the context of the study (Braun et al., 2014). It is possible to state that this approach guarantees that the themes which were identified concerning African American women’s narratives are consistent and coherent, and they can be used to address the research questions in this study (Braun et al., 2014; Vaismoradi et al., 2016). Furthermore, one should note that the definition of themes adds the conceptual component to the conducted thematic analysis that contributes to the further discussion and reporting of findings.
The final step in the thematic analysis is the provision of a report as a result of the investigation and interpretation of the previously identified themes to present the answers to research questions. The interpretation of the themes will be conducted in the context of African American women’s lived experiences and concerning the existing literature on the topic. To present a well-organized report, it is necessary to focus on balancing narrative and illustrative information in the text of the report to support the provided interpretation and analysis with the help of examples from the reviewed interviews (Braun et al., 2014). This sixth step is associated with the final stage in the analysis of the collected data, and all-important interpretations are made before organizing a report (Cassol et al., 2018). Furthermore, at this stage, a researcher focuses on the most efficient approach to presenting the findings in the form of tables or carefully interpreted and discussed excerpts.
Validity and Reliability
To assess the quality of findings in a phenomenological study, it is necessary to focus on their validity and reliability. In a phenomenological paradigm, validity is associated with the appropriateness of the proposed prompt questions for interviews to collect data that are important to answer the set research questions. As phenomenological studies belong to the area of qualitative research, the term “credibility” is often used to accentuate trustworthiness and validity in this type of qualitative study. Researchers note that the idea of credibility can be correlated with the meaning of internal validity typical of quantitative studies (Mohamad, Sulaiman, Sern, & Salleh, 2015). Thus, the validity of qualitative studies is usually analyzed through the perspective of their credibility.
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From this point of view, credibility in research means confidence in the data collected with the help of a certain instrument. To guarantee the credibility or validity of the study findings, it is important to pay much attention to formulating effective interview questions and making multiple notes during the analysis procedure. These notes are necessary to code the gathered data effectively and then identify all relevant themes that are successfully retrieved with the help of using efficient strategies for conducting phenomenological interviews (Leung, 2015; Mohamad et al., 2015). It is possible to note that the completion of these steps allows for making findings trustworthy and significant for other researchers.
Validity in qualitative studies is also guaranteed through the transferability of findings because it accentuates the appropriateness of the selected methodology in terms of receiving the results that can be applied to other participants within a specific selected context. Thus, even though qualitative studies are often discussed as less valid than quantitative ones, the focus on credibility and transferability of findings allows for accentuating trustworthiness about a phenomenological study (Leung, 2015). It is also guaranteed that the research method is selected for the study to address the research questions and complete the purpose with the help of the most appropriate tools. When all these conditions are met, it is possible to state that the results of the study are valid because they are credible and easily transferable.
It is also important to pay attention to the fact that reliability in quantitative studies means consistency in the research and selected methods and instruments to ensure that this study can be easily replicated by other researchers. However, one should note that in qualitative research, such an approach to determining reliability cannot be applied, and dependability and confirmability of study results work to discuss and accentuate reliability in qualitative inquiry (Cypress, 2017). While focusing on dependability, a researcher ensures that the conducted analysis and presented findings will be not only dependable but also trustworthy and consistent. Thus, the results of a qualitative study are expected to be correlated with the data provided in other studies on the selected research problem, and the same findings will be received after replicating this specific study. As it is stated by Elo et al. (2014), “dependability refers to the stability of data over time and under different conditions” (p. 2). Therefore, in this research, it is guaranteed that the collected data are stable and reliable, and the analysis of findings is consistent.
The confirmability of a study is another aspect that needs to be discussed in the context of reliability in qualitative phenomenological research. Thus, it is important to ensure that a study is objective and free of any possible bias with the focus on the fact that its results can be confirmed with the help of other studies on the topic (Cypress, 2017; Elo et al., 2014). If other investigations or research on the problem can verify the results of this particular study, it is possible to speak about the objectivity and confirmability of this research and received findings (Cypress, 2017). To ensure that the findings in this study are confirmable or reliable, it is necessary to effectively plan all the procedures related to the methodology to avoid errors and biases in interpretation.
The analysis of the concepts of validity and reliability in qualitative studies indicates that these categories can be applied to this specific methodology in comparison to quantitative studies, but other terms are typically used. Thus, in qualitative phenomenological investigations, the key focus is on the trustworthiness of the conducted research, and researchers and experts are inclined to guarantee credibility, transferability, confirmability, and dependability in their investigations to make sure that the principles of validity and reliability are addressed (Elo et al., 2014). The focus on the credibility, transferability, confirmability, and dependability of a study is important to improve the quality of research and provide the findings that will contribute to the scholarly discussion of the studied problem (Cypress, 2017). For this purpose, the reference to high-quality research findings should be viewed as critical, and the validity and reliability of the chosen instruments, methods, and specific approaches to analysis are usually carefully tested by researchers.
Braun, V., Clarke, V., & Terry, G. (2014). Thematic analysis. In P. Rohleder & A. Lyons (Eds.), Qualitative research in clinical and health psychology (pp. 95-113). Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.
Cassol, H., Pétré, B., Degrange, S., Martial, C., Charland-Verville, V., Lallier, F.,… Laureys, S. (2018). Qualitative thematic analysis of the phenomenology of near-death experiences. PloS One, 13(2), 1-12.
Cypress, B. S. (2017). Rigor or reliability and validity in qualitative research: Perspectives, strategies, reconceptualization, and recommendations. Dimensions of Critical Care Nursing, 36(4), 253-263.
Elo, S., Kääriäinen, M., Kanste, O., Pölkki, T., Utriainen, K., & Kyngäs, H. (2014). Qualitative content analysis: A focus on trustworthiness. Sage Open, 4(1), 1-10.
Leung, L. (2015). Validity, reliability, and generalizability in qualitative research. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 4(3), 324-327.
Mohamad, M. M., Sulaiman, N. L., Sern, L. C., & Salleh, K. M. (2015). Measuring the validity and reliability of research instruments. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 204, 164-171.
Vaismoradi, M., Jones, J., Turunen, H., & Snelgrove, S. (2016). Theme development in qualitative content analysis and thematic analysis. Journal of Nursing Education and Practice, 6(5), 100-110.