The journey to finding the right Qualitative Data Analysis (QDA) partner

Jul 02, 2024, Ushma Kapadia
Qualitative Research studies are known to produce reams of unstructured data. Consider this:

  1. A small-scale Qualitative study comprising 20 Interviews (1-hour duration per interview) can produce upto 1,50,000 words… 
  2. … which roughly equals two books from the Harry Potter series!! 
  3. At an average reading speed of 250 words per minute, just reading all this data would take over 10 hours. 
  4. Now, add up the time taken to sort, analyse and summarize all that data… easily 50 more hours of work, you’d agree?

Qualitative researchers play multiple roles simultaneously – moderator, analyst, insight-miner, client-service person, project-manager. While doing QDA yourself can be a robust and satisfying experience; it is definitely not the best use of your time when faced with such an array of demands.

QDA is a high-involvement activity; requiring consumer understanding, language capabilities and a keen, analyst mindset. Today, QDA is a niche service. Researchers have only begun to understand and appreciate its power to the fullest. On the supply side… some service providers are experimenting with Generative AI to improve QDA accuracy and speed. This makes finding the right QDA partner quite challenging. 

To arrive at evaluation criteria to choose a QDA-partner, let’s take a step back and understand what QDA typically entails:

Step 1: automated transcription i.e. converting Audio/ Speech to Text, for analysis and report-writing 
Step 2: data-dumping i.e. sorting data under pre-identified sub-heads, as per an analysis plan
Step 3: second-level content analysis i.e. condensing the sorted data, to arrive at commonalities/ differences among various types of target-groups covered in the study

Each of these steps require a separate set of capabilities eg. automated transcription requires high comfort-levels with using technology (eg. automated transcription apps); whereas data-sorting requires an experienced human eye to decide where to place which data. Thus, the ideal QDA-partner should come with a blend of Human and Tech skills. 

Here are some simple questions to help assess and choose among various QDA service-providers:

  • What has their journey as an organisation been, in terms of delivering high-accuracy transcription and analysis? 
  • What are their core strengths. What did they started their journey with. What is the QDA process followed? Are they able to explain simply, what their process is? Are any short-cuts (sometimes mislabelled as ‘efficiencies’) taken? 
- This helps you be aware of the trade-offs you make, owing to such efficiencies.

  • Which languages and what kind of data (eg. Qualitative) do they find easier/ difficult to handle? Do they employ native speakers of the languages you need QDA for? 
- This helps you decide whether they can handle bulk of your QDA needs for a particular language.

  • At what stages of the QDA process does Human intervention occur? Which stages are entirely machine-dependent/ automated?
- This helps you understand whether they are combining Human and Automated methods well enough, to achieve enhanced accuracy and speed.

  • What is the typical turnaround time for a standard project; say 10 interviews, English-to-English, 30-minutes duration?
- This helps you decide whether a single QDA service-provider will suffice or you will require multiple service-providers.

  • Which sectors do they work with, regularly vs occasionally?
- This helps you assess whether their transcriber/ analyst pool is versatile enough to work  for your sector.

  • What are the various ‘levels’ of output they offer eg. only data-grid/ data-grid plus related verbatims/ data-grid plus data-summary plus verbatims?
- This helps you decide what kind (strategic vs tactical) and scale (large sample size vs small sample size) of Qualitative projects they are best suited to undertake for you. QDA is essentially the process of data reduction and transformation into useable information and action items for the end-client. This process of data reduction could be thorough only if its gradual and traceable. Evaluating various output-levels helps you choose a partner that can ensure traceability.

At myTranscriptionPlace, we believe in providing trustworthy solutions. We understand the importance of transcription accuracy as well as need for Qualitative data sorting experts. Utilising technology like automated transcription and Generative AI, our outputs are primed for efficiency; without compromising on output-quality. Our platform ‘CAQDAS’ is built to enable data sorting by human experts.  Moreover, we follow a proven QDA process, catering to a variety of QDA requirements. Be it Transcripts only or Data-sorting in Excel, Topic-level summaries, Second-level analysis; our tailored solutions have been proven to crunch project turnaround times for Qualitative Researchers and end-client alike, around the globe.

Ushma Kapadia
Jul 02, 2024