Qualitative Analysis in Psychology and the Arts

Jarrod Israelstam

Qualitative research is a multifaceted set of tools which has arisen, in part, from the inadequacies of the quantitative paradigm. The data collection and analysis methods it utilizes are aimed at representing the subjective nature of reality. As Guba and Lincoln (1994) argue, the division between ontology and epistemology breaks down in the qualitative paradigm because ontology is no longer about ‘essences’ and epistemology is no longer about capturing them. Thus, in discussing qualitative epistemology, this essay will make reference to the epistemology or knowledge of real people. In other words, because we cannot capture the objective realities of participants in research, we must try to capture their constructions instead (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Specifically, this essay will examine the nature of the self, the nature of data produced in interviews, focus groups and naturally occurring data, and how methods such as CA, MCA, narrative analysis and thematic analysis can be useful tools in the continuing development of the qualitative paradigm.

According to Denzin and Lincoln (2005), qualitative research is the interpretive study of phenomena in their natural setting. It is a means of representing the world, as well as inevitably transforming it. It is, at its base, an approach which does not seek to avoid issues of bias or present unquestionable facts. Rather, the qualitative researcher admits that she or he is biased in very particular ways and makes an attempt to reflect on and tackle these biases (Guba & Lincoln, 1994). She or he recognizes that ‘facts’ can always be contested and are constantly changing. Qualitative research is able to move past this seeming obstacle of uncertainty. It evaluates claims by how well they fit all available information, not according to some guidelines for ‘absolute truth’ (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). This is because truth itself is a construction, and not ‘real’ like a physical object (Denzin...