4.5.2 Framework analysis


Adapted from Spencer L, Ritchie J, O'connor W, G. M, Ormston R. Analysis in practice. In: Ritchie J, Lewis J, McNaughton Nicholls C, Ormston R, editors. Qualitative research practice. London: Natcen, Sage; 2014. p. 295-345.

In the framework analysis data will be sifted, charted and sorted in accordance with key issues and themes (Srivastava et al. 2009). The analytical journey using this approach could be simply described as:

  1. Familiarization
  2. Constructing the initial framework
  3. Indexing
  4. Charting
  5. Abstraction and interpretation

The familiarization is the same as explained previously [add crossref]. In this approach, it is the occasion to identify topics or issues of interest, recurrent across the data and relevant for the research question, taking thus into account the aims of the study and the subjects contained in the topic guide.

The construction of an initial thematic framework can begin once the list of topics has been reviewed. This step aims to organize the data. The analyst will identify underlying ideas or themes related to particular items. (s)He will use these to group and sort the items according to different levels of generality, building a hierarchical arrangement of themes and subthemes. It results in a sort of table of content of what could be found in the corpus. These themes or issues “may have arisen from a priori themes (…) however it is at this stage that the researcher must allow the data to dictate the themes and issues”. “Although the researcher may have a set of a priori issues, it is important to maintain an open mind and not force the data to fit the a priori issues. However since the research was designed around a priori issues it is most likely that these issues will guide the thematic framework. Ritchie and Spencer stress that the thematic framework is only tentative and there are further chances of refining it at subsequent stages of analysis (1994).”  (Srivastava et al. 2009, p.76).

The next step consists of indexing the data, i.e. labelling sections of the corpus according to the thematic framework. This could be done by annotation in the margin of the transcript.

The fourth stage consist of charting: the indexed data are arranged in charts of themes. One chart is built for each theme. Subthemes are headings of the columns while each row represent an interview, transcript or unit of analysis. The content of each cell is a summary of the section of the corpus related to the subtheme.

To write useful summaries, “the general principle should be to include enough details and context so that the analyst is not required to go back to the transcribed data to understand the point being made, but not include so much that the matrices become full of undigested material (…)”. (Spencer et al. 2014b, p 309)

Spencer et al identified 3 requirements essential in order to retain the essence of the original material (Spencer et al. 2014b, p 309).

  1. Key terms phrases or expressions should be taken as much as possible from the participant’s own language;
  2. Interpretation should be kept to a minimum at this stage;
  3. Material should not be dismissed as irrelevant just because its inclusion is not immediately clear.

The last step is the mapping and interpretation. Spencer et al. advice to take the time to do this, have a break, read through the management of the data, etc.

In this phase, concept, categories could be developed. Linkage between them could be described and explanations and patterns could be raised. This could even be performed by a theorizing deduction. The category is issued of a theoretical preexisting referent. The categories exist because a former analysis of the problematic has already been carried out. (Paillé and Muchielli. 2011). In the framework analysis, the main categorical analysis grid is preexisting. This could be because the research object is already well studied, because of the research is commissioned by an institution or because the research is spread through different teams in different locations (Paillé and Muchielli. 2011).

Nivivo [add cross ref] could be very helpful in the management of the data and creation of the matrix when using the Framework approach.