Qualitative Data Analysis Methods Qualitative data is a blanket term referring to

Qualitative Data Analysis Methods

Qualitative data is a blanket term referring to non-numerical data or data that cannot be measured using a fixed scale. Qualitative data often comes in notes, interview transcripts, concepts, ideas, video recordings, and text documents. Unlike numerical data that measure differences between variables and their relationships, qualitative data focus on exploring and describing the collected data. Qualitative data analysis involves examining, identifying, and interpreting themes concerning the research question (Joss Elson & Perry, 2019). Two of the most common qualitative data analysis methods are content analysis and narrative analysis. 

Content Analysis

Content analysis is one of the most common qualitative data analysis techniques. It categorizes behavioural or verbal data to summarize, classify, and tabulate it (Salvi, 2019). Content analysis is most effective for analyzing interview responses and often depends on the research question. The method is used to ascertain the occurrence of certain words, themes, and concepts within a given qualitative data. The researchers use the technique to quantify and analyze the presence of certain words, themes, or concepts of interest to understand their meanings and relationships (Salvi, 2019). For instance, a researcher can evaluate the words and phrases used in a news article in search of partiality or bias. The researcher would then make inferences on the message in the article, writer, culture, or even the time it was written. 

For a researcher to analyze data using content analysis, the text is first coded to break it down into manageable categories. Once the data is broken down into manageable categories, it becomes easy to analyze or look for patterns or themes. The process is often focused on achieving various predefined objectives, such as identifying the intention or focus of communication, revealing international differences in communication, and identifying visible patterns.

Narrative Analysis

As the name suggests, narrative analysis is a qualitative data analysis method that involves listening to verbal narratives and analyzing their content to derive meaning. The method analyzes content from many sources, including field observations, interviews, and surveys (Joss Elson & Hammack, 2021). Its focus is on using people’s experiences and stories to answer the research questions. The method can uncover feelings, behaviors, or motivations that are not expressed explicitly in a narrative. Researchers can get detailed insights about the subject that can be hard to derive using other methods. It is primarily a useful method in research involving cultural subjects where they must unearth the many subcultures in each culture. 

There are several differences and similarities between content analysis and narrative analysis. While the narrative method concerns itself with stories people express about themselves or others, content analysis focus on identifying themes, patterns, or ideas in qualitative data. Another distinguishing feature is that narrative analysis is only used on verbal materials such as accounts of subjective experiences. At the same time, content analysis deals primarily with verbal materials but can also be used to analyze nonverbal content. The two data analysis methods use similar coding and word frequency tools. But the objective is different. 

The suitability of these two qualitative methods depends on numerous factors, including the research question and the type of data collected. However, I would prefer to use the content analysis method because it allows for verbal and nonverbal content analysis. 



Joss Elson, R., & Hammack, P. L. (2021). Essentials of narrative analysis. American Psychological Association.

Reggiano, N., & Perry, T. E. (2019). Conducting secondary analysis of qualitative data: Should we, can we, and how? Qualitative Social Work, 18(1), 81-97.

Salvi, A. F. (2019). Qualitative content analysis. In The Routledge handbook of research methods in applied linguistics (pp. 440-452). Routledge.