Guides for collecting and analyzing qualitative data

Numerous scholars have written about qualitative data — what counts as data, how to collect and generate it, how to analyze it, or even do without it (Brinkmann, 2014). As one might expect from the title, Uwe Flick’s newly-published edited volume, The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Collection (Flick, 2018) aims to discuss questions to do with qualitative data collection (p. 3).

This volume aims to examine the following questions:

  • What is data?
  • What does it mean to collect it?
  • In what ways does the term qualitative still have relevance?

The 42-chapter volume is organized into six parts. After a short introduction for the editor (Part 1), the book examines the following broad topical areas:

  • Part II: Concepts, contexts, basics (e.g., ethics, sampling, accessing the field, transcription, cross-language research, secondary analysis, and quality);
  • Part III: Types of data and how to collect them (e.g., interviews, focus groups, narrative data, observations, ethnography, go-alongs, documents, images, media, and sound data);
  • Part IV: Digital and internet data (e.g., ethics, collecting and analyzing blogs, Facebook data);
  • Part V: Triangulation and mixed methods; and
  • Part VI: Collecting data with specific populations (e.g., children, older people, experts and elites, and hard-to-reach-groups).

Like Flick’s earlier handbook on approaches to qualitative data analysis (2014), this book features authors from countries across the world, including Europe, U.S., U.K., Brazil, New Zealand, Scandinavia, South Africa, Hong Kong, South Korea and Australia.

For scholars contemplating the design of a new project, the book is well worth a look to examine the range of options for collecting and generating data. Although qualitative inquiry has historically relied on two main forms of data gathering: hanging out and talking to people (Dingwall, 1997), the volume provides in-depth information on the ways in which researchers use these approaches in nuanced ways, as well as current applications and issues. For example, although researchers have long made use of visual data, there is a chapter on collecting media data through film and television, another on images, and a third on videography. Several chapters also examine online data (e.g., blogs, Facebook data), and the ethical and conceptual challenges of working with online and digital data. Each chapter features recommendations for further reading, along with extensive reference lists to explore. To review the full table of contents, see the publisher’s website. To review the full table of contents, see the publisher’s website.

Flick’s (2014) previous handbook, The SAGE Handbook of Qualitative Data Analysis, organizes 40 chapters in 5 parts:

  • Part I: Mapping the field, which includes an introductory overview by the editor
  • Part II: Concepts, contexts, basics (including chapters on sampling, transcription, collaborative analysis, conceptual framings for analysis)
  • Part III: Analytic strategies (including chapters on grounded theory, qualitative content analysis, phenomenology, narrative analysis, documentary methods, hermeneutics, cultural studies, working with social media data, and using qualitative data analysis software)
  • Part IV: Types of data and their analysis (including chapters on interviews, focus groups, conversations, discourse analysis, observations, documents, news media, images, film, sounds, video and virtual data)
  • Part V: Using and assessing qualitative data analysis (including chapters on reanalysis of data, meta-analysis, quality, ethics, mixed and multiple methods, generalization, theorization and writing).

To review the full table of contents, see the publisher’s website.

Although the handbook on data analysis preceded the publication of the handbook on data collection by several years, the two volumes work well together, and feature many well-known scholars from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds writing on topics of specialty. These include Marcus Banks, Rosalind Barbour, Amanda Coffey, Norman Denzin, Nigel Fielding, Giampietro Gobo, Jaber Gubrium and James Holstein, Sharlene Hesse-Biber, Annette Markham, Joseph Maxwell, Donna Mertens, David Morgan, Janice Morse, Margrit Schreier, Carla Willig among others. (Since collectively there are over 80 chapters in the two volumes — I’ve not listed all of the authors here, but included some of those whose books you may be familiar with.) That the editor was able to draw so many of these scholars whose collective work represents numerous books and articles on various aspects of qualitative inquiry is quite an accomplishment. Readers wanting to gain up-to-date accounts of qualitative data collection and data analysis will be richly rewarded.

NB: In the spirit of full disclosure, I was honored to be invited to contribute chapters on interviewing to both of these collections. (I confess to being somewhat overawed to have chapters in volumes with authors whose work I’ve studied and used for years!)

Kathy Roulston


Brinkmann, S. (2014). Doing without data. Qualitative Inquiry, 20(6), 720-725. doi:10.1177/1077800414530254

Dingwall, R. (1997). Accounts, interviews and observations. In G. Miller & R. Dingwall (Eds.), Context and method in qualitative research (pp. 51-65). London: Sage.

Flick, U. (Ed.) (2014). The SAGE handbook of qualitative data analysis. Los Angeles: Sage.

Flick, U. (Ed.) (2018). The SAGE handbook of qualitative data collection. Los Angeles: SAGE.


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