How writing can help your qualitative analysis

By PGPR team member Elly Phillips

You’re committed to completing a rigorous, thorough and well-developed analysis. You’ve collected your data and spent hours immersing yourself in coding and organising your codes into themes. When are you ready to start writing up?


When is the best time to start writing?
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pixabay

How final is the final report?

It’s useful to address the perception of qualitative research as a linear process with writing up as the conclusion. If you follow this model, you may be reluctant to move on until you’re sure your codes are ‘finished’. Perhaps that idea comes from quantitative research, where you analyse your data then write up your report to present to others. Based on this, your concerns might be mostly about judging when you’re ‘ready’ to move onto writing.

Writing as a process

Instead, consider writing as an integral part of continuing your analysis. The use of writing as an analysis tool crops up across social sciences and qualitative methods. You might have read about memo-writing in grounded theory, for instance. Hermeneutic psychology writers have suggested writing should be an integral part of developing an analysis.

In this vision, the writing is less about reporting your fully formed ideas and more about refining your thinking, ideas and arguments about your data. Codes only capture a small part of your thinking and don’t allow you to explain or explore. As you write, you can capture and develop initially nebulous ideas about your work.

How does writing help?

Initially, writing can be for yourself. You can test your arguments and reasoning. You might start setting down your analytic claims about your data. How did you make sense of the participants’ words? Which parts of the text do you think were particularly relevant? These don’t have to be final ideas, but they can help you decide what might be useful.

Writing can also help you get feedback from others. A narrative with quotes, analytic commentary and overarching comments communicates your ideas with more depth than code names or standalone quotes. A written account helps an outsider understand the reasoning that took you from data to themes and how you’re interpreting the data.


Sharing your ideas
Photo by Startupstockphotos via Pixabay

A short, written analysis example can reassure your supervisor that you’re engaging in a thorough analysis. They will then be able to see your work’s structure, content and analysis style, which can be vital to ensure you’re creating a well-developed piece of analysis.

What to write?

There are many options for when to write and how much. Personally, I like to write often, even if many of those narratives only collect virtual cobwebs on my laptop (I always believe I’ll use them one day). You can write a brief reflection on each interview and after transcription. You might want to write up some key themes from one transcript, explain what you think is important about a small group of quotes, or write a full analysis of each participant’s account.

Strange things happen when you write. Despite rigorous attention to coding, our analytic ideas can prove frustratingly slippery when we try to explain them. You might find that some themes develop beyond their original scope as you find more to say about them. Others may turn out to be uninteresting once you start writing. Either situation should nudge you to return to your data and see what was happening (moving back around the hermeneutic circle). Are there multiple ideas within one initial code that might benefit from more thought? Are there other parts of the data that might elaborate your ideas and develop those dull themes? If you encounter these questions early, it’s an exciting way to advance your analysis.

How can PGPR help


We can help you take the plunge
Image by Anja via Pixabay

If you’re unsure or reluctant to take the plunge, we can help. A Skype session might help make decisions about writing. If your supervisor can’t review all your developing ideas, you can ask for feedback from our team. We can review early drafts and help you refine and focus further analysis.

Starting to write and explain your ideas is an exciting time in your research. Take the plunge to see where it can take you.

How a PGPR video consultation can help you with your qualitative analysis

Would talking with a friendly qualitative expert help you to move past hurdles in your project?
Photo by Adam Nowakowski on Unsplash

Feeling stuck

There are times in any research student’s experience where they lose a sense of direction or need some reassurance. We all sometimes feel stuck! Unfortunately, students don’t always get the support they need or want from their research supervisors (we’re not blaming supervisors as many are often over-stretched and under pressure). This can sometimes mean students need help in:

  • Formulating a concise qualitative research question
  • Figuring out which qualitative method would fit the best with the research question
  • Understanding if their interview schedule will elicit the best qualitative data
  • Getting feedback on a table of themes to see if the analysis is appropriately in-depth
  • Advice about their project from an independent qualitative expert
  • Thinking through what they might say at a viva to defend their project

Maximising the focus of your precious time

Many postgraduate students work long, solitary hours on their projects, and for some, these hours are undertaken after the ‘day job’ or while juggling other commitments. Time is a precious commodity and it is frustrating to not have a clear sense of direction when a few hours have been carved out.  For full-time students, the single focus of the research programme can be overwhelming, to the point where students ‘can’t see the wood for the trees’. Does any of this sound familiar?


At times students struggle to find a clear way forwards with their research
Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

Moving forwards

Sometimes, having a human-to-human conversation can be a much-needed antidote to needling concerns, unanswered questions, and, at times, a sense of isolation for postgraduate students. Having someone encourage, give direction, affirm and offer insight into an element that has been problematic can pave the way for a more productive way forwards.

We’ve been there! Our experienced team have empathy for postgrad students and recognise that sometimes you just need to have a helping hand. This is why we now offer one-on-one video consultations with our qualitative experts. Our team appreciates how important timely supportive and empathic feedback is, and we work hard to make our time with you as productive and helpful as possible. And we’re friendly!

Here’s how it works

You contact us and tell us a little more about what you need. If a video consultation seems like a great fit, we’ll arrange for a mutually convenient time for you to talk with one of our team. They will spend an hour in preparation for the session reading your work, so you might want to send material relevant to your discussion beforehand; although do bear in mind that we can’t read an entire thesis in an hour. You might also give some thought to the main aims you’d like to achieve in the hour of talk-time. Then we’ll contact you and talk with you for an hour, based on the agreed session outline.

Previous students who have engaged with our video consultations have really appreciated them:

I would say what helped me the most was just having a discussion with you as it was absolutely paramount in building my confidence. I felt more confident going into the viva and definitely answered the questions with a lot more conviction. So again, I just want to thank you for all your help! (PhD student)

So, if your project needs an injection of human-to-human discussion, please get in touch via the form below. Sometimes a little support is all it takes for your project to take flight again.

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet on Unsplash

Convince Any Stats-Lover with Your Qualitative Method Section

You have done a cutting-edge piece of qualitative research that is ripe for publishing… but your subject matter means that targeting traditional, quant-based journals makes more sense for your beloved paper. Do you know how to get your paper ready to submit to a potentially stats-favouring audience?


Sending your paper to someone who does this all day? Don’t quake in your boots… we’ve got you covered!
 
Photo by Ruth Zimmerman on Unsplash

Lots of publications have quantitative researchers reviewing qualitative work and you want to make sure that your reviewer has no doubts about the value of your fabulous paper.

Fear not – here are some top tips on how to get your methodology section looking ravishingly rigorous and ready for submission.

1. Check the journal’s conventions for qualitative research.

Many journals that accept qualitative papers have specific conventions or guidelines for qualitative submissions.

There are also journals that do not accept qualitative papers (sad but true!), although they don’t always let you know this. If you can’t find any specific conventions for qualitative papers in the publication in question, have a look to see if they have any lovely qual papers in their archives. If they don’t, it’s probably a waste of your time to send your paper to this journal, so cut your losses and move on to the next journal on your list.   

2. Recognise and discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the qualitative approach.

One sure-fire way to put off reviewers is to ignore the weaknesses of your approach. Of course, you want to emphasise why your approach is fantastic and perfect for addressing your research question (as well as why quantitative research is not suitable for your study). However, discussing the disadvantages will give strength to your argument.

Talking about the strengths of your approach is obviously important, but don’t forget about its weaknesses!

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

3. Discuss validity and reliability.

One concern of quantitative researchers is that qualitative research lacks validity and reliability. Emphasise the rigour of your approach, using examples.

4. Put all the right information in your methods section.

The structure of your methodology section will depend on your specific piece of research. Qualitative methods sections are not as cut and dried as quantitative methods sections. There are, however, some essential ingredients!

  • Research question: Be sure to clearly include this.
  • Design, methodology, approach and philosophy: Your theoretical assumptions need to be made explicit. Many researchers trained in quantitative methods are not aware of the philosophical underpinnings of qualitative research. Also, be mindful that approaches such as TA and IPA might need more explanation for quantitative researchers.
  • Researcher information: Also known as reflexivity – ensure you talk about your background, its relevance to the study both in terms of usefulness and potential bias
  • Sample, recruitment and drop-outs: Quantitative reviewers can sometimes be put off by small sample sizes. If you have spoken to a small sample, or if any participants have dropped out, explain why.
  • Procedure: Say what you did and why you did it. Make it relevant to your research question. What do the reviewers need to know about the research setting? How did you collect your data?
  • Ethics, including consent and confidentiality: Although ethical issues for quantitative and qualitative research can be similar, highlight any other issues, such as ongoing informed consent for case studies or additional means of protecting participant anonymity.

Just like the lovely cocktail you might celebrate with after your submission, your methodology section needs to have the right ingredients.
 
Photo by Pastel100 on Pixabay

5. Make sure it looks top-notch!

Don’t give the reviewer any chance to get off on the wrong foot. Your references should be perfect and your paper needs to be free from mistakes. Need an eagle eye to check over your paper? The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!

Six Reasons You Should Work with a Proof-Reader

Why should you work with one of the PGPR team?

If you’re reading this blog post, you are either an existing PGPR client, or you’re thinking about using our services. Either way – thank you! We are so appreciative of your business. Everyone on our team finds the research you send us fascinating, meaning that a day’s work for PGPR is better than a day off from a more traditional job in academia.

I have been personally recommended to many of my clients, which means some people feel a bit unsure when I tell them that it won’t be me looking at their work. If this describes you, this handy blog post will explain why you are in safe hands at PGPR, no matter which team member tackles your thrilling thesis.

  • The team are carefully vetted 

I am ultra-careful when recruiting PGPR team members – after all, our reputation relies on their excellence. Most of our clients are working in the field of qualitative psychology. As such, I ask experts in that field for recommendations of people who might want to work for me, and then I follow those recommendations up. All potential team members complete a series of tests before being interviewed, meaning I am satisfied that their work is excellent and their values align with those of the company; those values being honesty, efficiency and kindness, in case you were wondering.

Feel the love with the PGPR team
 
Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash
  • All of the team are experts

Every member of the PGPR team is an expert in their field. Some are expert proof-readers with years’ experience on a multitude of texts. Others are experts in qualitative methods, with PhDs of their own. Some teach at universities. Others were taught by Jonathan A Smith, who devised IPA, the method so many of my clients use.  

All of our team have read at least one book this big, so you know you can trust them
 
Photo by Jasmine Coro on Unsplash
  • You will be matched with the right member of the team

We will always ensure that our clients are matched to the team member who best aligns with their needs. Are you looking for a super speedy and accurate proof-read, but don’t need any feedback? Then Hannah or Rosy are your women! Need feedback on your qualitative work, but feel confident your English is strong? We’ll pass you on to Fiona or Lydia. If you need proofing and feedback, then Rachel, Astrid or Elly will be perfect for your project. Between us, we have expertise in a range of qualitative methods, so we’ll ensure that your proof-reader’s skills fit with your research.

  • Quicker turnaround times

When I started PGPR in 2018, I had no idea it was going to be so popular. I quickly found myself with a waiting list more than four months long, which was no use for stressed-out students working on a deadline. Expanding the team has meant that we can offer much tighter turnarounds, which is good news for everyone.

  • Four eyes are better than two

There are times when it’s useful for a client to work with more than one proof-reader. For example, they might have a huge thesis with a turnaround time which is just too tight for one person to complete. If so, we can put several proof-readers on the case for you. Or a client’s supervisor might be giving feedback which conflicts with ours. When that happens, we can ask for a third opinion from another member of the PGPR team.


Two heads are better than one
 
Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash

I hope this blog has calmed any concerns you might have had about working with my team. Of course, if you have any more questions, please do get in touch on info@postgradproofreader.co.uk and we will happily answer those queries for you.

To book a slot with one of PGPR’s excellent team, visit www.postgradproofreader.co.uk

How to get your qualitative study ready for publication in five easy steps

Are you a postgrad student with a comprehensive, beautifully written qualitative thesis? You know your research deserves to be read by a wider audience, but after looking at journal word lengths, you’ve realised you’ll need to cut your gorgeous study in half (or maybe even quarters) to be eligible for publication.

How on earth can this be done?

Don’t panic! This blog will outline five easy steps to help you cut your study down into a bite-sized, publishable piece without losing any of the nuance you’ve put your blood, sweat and tears into.

1. Select a journal Think about audience, word-length and style

Before you even start thinking about making cuts to your precious study, the first thing to get straight is which journal you’re writing for. Who is your ideal audience? Do they have a key publication? If so, that could be the one for you. Run a quick search through your chosen journal’s archive to ensure they are open to qualitative publications; it will be a waste of your time and theirs to send your gorgeous IPA findings to a publication which only deals with stats.

Wow your audience with your awesome findings
Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels

Once you’ve found your ideal journal, search their website for their instructions for authors, and note down their word length and style guidelines. Some journals might ask for a certain number of pages rather than a word length. Most will have requirements for font, point size and spacing, which you will do well to adopt from the outset so you don’t get a nasty shock when it turns out you have to double space the article you’ve spent hours getting down to 30 singlespaced pages.

2. Re-read your study What are the novel points? What will be of particular interest to your chosen journal’s audience?

Once you’ve selected your ideal journal, go back and re-read your study. It’s unlikely you’ll be able to fit all the findings from a master’s or PhD study into one paper, so think about which findings are the most novel, or which will appeal most to the audience of your chosen publication.

3. Choose two to three themes Which would work as an individual paper?

Feeling overwhelmed by words? The Post-Graduate Proof-Reader can help!
Photo by Patrick Tomasso on Unsplash

You might have to make some big choices at this stage. Have you got five themes? Perhaps there will only be room in this paper to present two of those. Don’t worry – it could be that you could put the other three into a second paper for another audience. Maybe there’s just one theme that you feel is really hard-hitting. That’s fine too – you can pull that out of the study and present it alone.

4. Re-write your lit review and discussion Tailor these to your chosen themes

Once you’ve selected the theme/s you want to focus on for this paper, you’ll need to tailor the introduction, method and discussion sections to fit. Which papers from your lit review are relevant just for these fewer themes? Add a short section in your method explaining that you have (for example) selected two themes from a wider project, and explaining why you’ve chosen to do this. You might also want to include some recommendations and reflections towards the end of your discussion section.

5. Send your paper to the Post-Graduate Proof-Reader

Your study should be looking much more like a publishable paper now. It will be shorter and more tightly focused towards a specific audience. Congratulations! But… you may still be a little beyond that elusive word limit. Could you make your points more succinctly? Perhaps you don’t need all those limitations you’ve humbly included in your discussion section! Sometimes a fresh pair of eyes is needed at this stage. Visit http://postgradproofreader.co.uk/ and I’ll be happy to help you get your piece down to the correct word length and help you share your fabulous research with the wider world.