Qualitative data is generally analysed according to the principles of content analysis. For the data to be analysed, it needs to be put into a standard format that allows for comparisons. This often means various kinds of minutes.
These are the different kinds of minutes:
All statements are taken down in full, word for word. This type of minutes serves as the basis for comprehensive, interpretative analysis.
- Annotated minutes
This contains information other than the transcript, e.g. pauses, emphasis, particularities of speech or additional comments.
- Summarised minutes
This is a systematic summary of content that is of the most relevance to the central questions. It involves harmonising all the material and aggregating it to the same level of detail. This kind of minutes is used primarily when there is an abundance of data and when interest is mainly on the thematic content of the material.
Interviews and minutes should not be interpreted in a free (non-systematic) fashion, since it will limit other people’s comprehension of the interpretation.
The analysis of minutes involves four stages:
- Checks are made that the data being analysed is all to the same level of detail. If this is not the case, then not all of the pieces of data can be analysed using the same template.
- The information must be sorted according to standard criteria – generally questions – so that the various pieces of data can be compared with each other. Various forms of tabular presentation are appropriate here. Alternatively, passages in the minutes can be highlighted in different colours or using a variety of signs.
- For the actual analysis of the prepared data, the content can be attached to the main questions. It is also possible to quantify statements or answers that occur several times. Information from the analysis can be recorded in a separate document or an extra column in a table.
- Checks are made that the summarised or aggregated results still match up to the question to which an answer must be found. If this is not the case, then Steps 2 and 3 must be reviewed.
Every operation must be documented. Intermediate products such as summaries or tables should be kept. This increases the transparency of the aggregation process and allows for corrections. It also means that additional questions can be analysed at a later stage.