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Step 6: Abstraction and interpretation


Taking each theme in turn, the researcher reviews all the relevant data extracts or summaries, mapping the range and diversity of views and experiences, identifying constituent elements and underlying dimensions, and proposing key themes or concepts that underpin them. The process of categorization typically involves moving from surface features of the data to more analytic properties. Researchers may proceed through several iterations, comparing and combining the data at higher levels of abstraction to create more analytic concepts or themes, each of which may be divided into a set of categories. Where appropriate, categories may be further refined and combined into more abstract classes. Dey (1993) uses the term ‘splitting’ and ‘slicing’ to describe the way ideas are broken down and then recombined at a higher level – whereas splitting gives greater precision and detail, slicing achieves greater integration and scope. In this way, more descriptive themes used at the data management stage may well undergo a major transformation to form part of a new, more abstract categorical or classificatory system” (Spencer et al., 2014, p. 285). At this stage typologies can be created.