Reviews

Interactive qualitative analysis: a systems method for qualitative research

Both authors work at the University of Texas at Austin, and neither has a background in healthcare research. The stated aim of their text is to: ‘help students unscramble the mysteries of qualitative data collection, coding and analysis…’ And they propose using a ‘systematic, qualitative technique: interactive qualitative analysis (IQA)’. There is a hint here that perhaps other approaches to qualitative analysis are not systematic, and that this is not a good thing.

The opening chapter, cleverly entitled ‘Paradigm Wars’, reviews the qualitative v quantitative debate, which is as perennial as the ‘nature v nurture’ debate in psychology. It does this briefly but quite well, with a little bit of philosophy thrown in for good measure — indeed there is a fair smattering of philosophy throughout. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the beliefs and values of IQA.

Chapter two, ‘ Systems a s Representations’, examines the nature of reality and explores the question quid est veritas? What is truth? What do we mean when we say something is true? Are there different types of truth? Chapter three then goes on to place IQA in the context of the research process. The path or ‘flow’ of research in IQA has, we are told, four distinct phases: research design, focus group, interview and report. It seems then that IQA is not simply another

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The opening chapter, cleverly entitled ‘Paradigm Wars’, reviews the qualitative v quantitative debate, which is as perennial as the ‘nature v nurture’ debate in psychology. It does this briefly but quite well, with a little bit of philosophy thrown in for good measure — indeed there is a fair smattering of philosophy throughout. The chapter concludes with an analysis of the beliefs and values of IQA.

Chapter two, ‘ Systems a s Representations’, examines the nature of reality and explores the question quid est veritas? What is truth? What do we mean when we say something is true? Are there different types of truth? Chapter three then goes on to place IQA in the context of the research process. The path or ‘flow’ of research in IQA has, we are told, four distinct phases: research design, focus group, interview and report. It seems then that IQA is not simply another tool for the researcher’s armoury, but rather it is yet another qualitative approach, akin to phenomenology, grounded theory and so on. The methods, focus groups and interviews, are integral to IQA.

The following chapters then go on to explore, in some detail, these four distinct phases. It is at this stage that an experienced qualitative research might start to feel somewhat uneasy as the text becomes heavy with tables and graphs and talk of ‘Power Analysis’ that feel very quantitative in nature.

Chapters nine and ten offer a very structured approach to the interpretation, presentation and reporting of an IQA study.

Throughout the text, case studies and worked examples are included to help the reader appreciate the utility of IQA. Of particular interest is the inclusion of a CD-ROM tutorial that reflects the main text, and provides a number of interactive elements and activities.

Although it can be challenging in places, on the whole, the text is well- written. I suspect that experienced qualitative researchers would be uncomfortable with the very systematic approach taken in IQA but perhaps some may see a place for it in the broad church that is qualitative research.

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