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GLHLTH 722K: Culture, Health, and Illness in a Global Perspective: Research Methods

Data Analysis

Qualitative Software Comparison Chart
from Paul Mihas, Odum Institute, UNC

NVivo helps you manage, analyze and report on unstructured data; including text documents (e.g. surveys, news articles, or field notes), audio, and video. Newest edition (10) has a capture tool for scraping web pages and social media.

See also:

  • Atlas.ti
    no Duke site license, but can access through SSRI high performance computer servers;
    free 30 day trial also available
  • dedoose
    inexpensive Web-based tool

What is an observation?

A way to gather data by watching people, events, or noting physical characteristics in their natural setting. Observations can be overt (subjects know they are being observed) or covert (do not know they are being watched).

Participant Observation

  • Researcher becomes a participant in the culture or context being observed.
  • Requires researcher to be accepted as part of culture being observed in order for success

Direct Observation

  • Researcher strives to be as unobtrusive as possible so as not to bias the observations; more detached.
  • Technology can be useful (i.e video, audiorecording).

Indirect Observation

  • Results of an interaction, process or behavior are observed (for example, measuring the amount of plate waste left by students in a school cafeteria to determine whether a new food is acceptable to them).

Transcription Software

Please note these suggestions are not endorsements of these products.

  • Dragon Naturally Speaking
    Speech recognition software package for Windows personal computers, developed and sold by Nuance Communications. Must be trained to recognize a person's voice so may have limited use for transcription of more than one voice.
  • Express Scribe
    A transcription assistance program for PC or Mac; control audio playback using a transcription foot pedal or keyboard (with 'function' keys). The free version supports common audio formats, including wav, mp3, wma and dct.

Choosing a Method for Collecting Qualitative Data


Overall Purpose



  •  Quickly and/or easily gets lots of  information from people in a non threatening way
  • can complete anonymously
  • inexpensive to administer
  • easy to compare and analyze
  • administer to many people
  • can get lots of data
  • many sample questionnaires already exist
  • might not get careful feedback
  • wording can bias client's responses
  • impersonal
  • may need sampling expert
  • doesn't get full story
  • Understand someone's impressions or experiences
  • Learn more about answers to questionnaires
  • get full range and depth of information
  • develops relationship with client
  • can be flexible with client
  • can take ime
  • can be hard to analyze and compare
  • can be costly
  • interviewer can bias client's responses
  • Gather firsthand information about people, events, or programs
  • view operations of a program as they are actually occurring
  • can adapt to events as they occur
  • can be difficult to interpret seen behaviors
  • can be complex to categorize observations
  • can influence behaviors of program participants
  • can be expensive
 Focus groups
  • Explore a topic in depth through group discussion
  • quickly and reliably get common impressions
  • can be efficient way to get much range and depth of information in short time
  • can convey key information about programs
  • can be hard to analyze responses
  • need good facilitator for safety and closure
  • difficult to schedule 6-8 people together
 Case studies
  • Understand an experience or conduct comprehensive examination through cross comparison of cases
  • depicts client's experience in program input, process and results
  • powerful means to portray program to outsiders
  • usually time consuming to collect, organize and describe
  • represents depth of information, rather than breadth

Table was adapted from the Basic Guide to Program Evaluation,

E-Journal: Field Methods

Field methods: from 08/01/1999 to present in: