A database approach to the analysis of complex qualitative research data

Date of publication: September 1, 1994


It is argued in this paper that the use of text-databases implies a cost-effective and rational use of transcripts from broadly based qualitative studies. Special attention is drawn to the possibility of querying the data by means of an automatically generated "unique-words list". Text-databases are seen as a mechanical aid in qualitative content analysis, but it is also indicated how the data generated can be used in explorative, quantitative content analysis. A number of methodological issues are discussed. In particular, the rationality of using the unique-words list as an indicator of the contents of the database. The interpretive process is described in terms of queries and result files, and it is illustrated how the database allows a systematic definition of scope and levels of aggregation of respondents. Finally some indications for programme development are given, and it is suggested that the use of text-databases might imply a change in nature of qualitative research: Instead of being project-specific, qualitative studies can be seen as updates of text-databases. The empirical background consists in a series of market studies on behalf of the Marketing Board of Danish Agricultural Council (LAU). Examples are drawn from Spain, Japan and Saudi Arabia.

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