Qualitative analysis: how to begin making sense

Fam Pract Res J. 1994 Sep;14(3):289-97.


The clinical process used to make sense of patient concerns closely parallels the analysis process of qualitative research. This partly explains why qualitative research methods are appropriate for many family practice research questions. Unfortunately, the language used by qualitative researchers, especially with regards to analysis, is often obscure. This impedes family physicians from implementing qualitative research. This paper overviews qualitative analysis and introduces a language and means by which family physicians can begin to make sense of qualitative data. The concepts, "reflexivity," "iteration," "data saturation," and "text," are defined. Three core steps of qualitative analysis are identified and compared to the diagnostic process. They consist of choosing an organizing system, reducing the data, and making connections. Four idealized ways for conducting these steps, editing, template, quasistatistical, and immersion/crystallization, are presented and compared to four ways of approaching patient concerns. Finally, the process of creating an appropriate qualitative analysis strategy is described for a hypothetical research study and some pitfalls and principles of qualitative analysis are reviewed.

MeSH terms

  • Family Practice*
  • Humans
  • Language
  • Research Design*
  • Semantics