Faith Communities Study Logo

Faith Communities Study Logo
Faith Communities Study Logo

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Research update #11: Beginning analysis

Hello to all! Here's another quick update to let you know that this project is still alive and going. My intention from this spring was to dedicate time to the analysis of these data in the summer. So, here we are in the summer, and here I am dedicating my time to the analysis! For those research buffs out there I am using a newer method of qualitative analysis and complimenting it with an older method. The newer method is the "Sort & Sift, Think & Shift" method that I went through training for in November of last year ( The older method is grounded theory in the Charmaz tradition (

The first step is to immerse myself in the data. So, I am re-reading all of the transcripts from the 30 interviews that we conducted back in the spring of 2016. Next, I'll look for themes that arise from the data, and use constant comparison to compare pieces of data to each other, in terms of looking for ways to expand or support the themes. One part of immersing oneself in the data involves identifying "power quotations" - or quotations that really strike the reader as important or worthy of highlighting. The purpose of identifying these quotations is to then consider, what was it about that quotation that made me pause? What is the idea that quotation is conveying? How could I best summarize that idea?

The Sort & Sift, Think & Shift (SSTS for short) method calls for the researcher to stay in a "vertical" mindset, not a "horizontal" one. What that means is that in the SSTS method, we treat each piece of data as a stand-alone entity in the beginning. We examine it from top to bottom, as if it existed with no other pieces of data. This is appealing to me because it gives "voice" to each participant of the study in a way that honors their stories and gives each story a chance to stand alone. I really enjoyed listening to each person's stories, and I want to find a way to honor their voice without it getting buried in the analysis. In qualitative analysis, we move from abstraction to abstraction, meaning that we move further away from the data so that we can summarize and categorize into themes that help us understand the "whole picture." Think of it as putting a jigsaw puzzle together. The transcripts of the interviews are like pieces of the puzzle. But the way I think of it is like those puzzles where you can make little mini pictures within a greater puzzle. Like, when an owl or a tiger is hidden in a larger puzzle of a train station. I don't like losing sight of the smaller stories for the sake of the larger analysis. So I like to stay "close to the data," or in other words I like to keep those stories fresh in my mind. But, it is very difficult to make a whole puzzle if you only look at individual pieces. So, I like the SSTS method because it gives me tools to both "stay close to the data" but also to "zoom out" and look at the larger picture that is coming together as I look at each interview and think about how they might be connected.

So anyway, I am getting off topic a little bit. I just wanted to give you a sense of what I'm doing with the study at this point! I'll be sharing a few sneak peeks of my analysis on my Twitter feed as I go through the data, so stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Research update #10: Qualitative research training

After another long hiatus, we finally have another update for you! The life of a tenure-track professor is complicated, and sometimes projects fall to the "wayside" when there is not a set deadline or pressure from an external source. So, in order to inject new "life" into the analysis of this project, I decided to attend a workshop on a particular research method. The method is in the family of methods called qualitative methods. These methods are different than quantitative methods in that they focus more on the words and the qualities of what someone said, rather than counting up the number of times someone said something, or giving a score to someone's input based on a survey or a questionnaire. We chose qualitative methods for this project because we felt it was the best way to honor the unique stories that we knew we would hear from you all.

The workshop is offered by a company called ResearchTalk. The session I (Megan) attended was here: I am grateful for this workshop because it gave me time to step back from other demands and just sit with the interview transcripts from your interviews and start to sift through them to find the meaningful themes and results. I look forward to sharing some preliminary results soon!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Research update #9: Data cleaning and preparation

Well, after a busy summer, we are back at it with this study. As of now, we are cleaning and prepping the transcripts of all 30 interviews, then our next step will be to conduct initial coding using the grounded theory techniques of Charmaz. Stay tuned for our next update, when we'll share what emerging themes develop from our analysis of the data!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Research update #8: Data collection complete!

We are excited to announce that we have completed all of our interviews! We did a total of 30, from a wide range of backgrounds. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, it was our pleasure to talk to you! Next step is analysis, which we'll be working on this summer. Stay tuned for what we learn from the data!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Research update #7: Resuming interviews

Hello everyone! We have finished with the initial analyses, and we are pleased with the direction of the study thus far. We are resuming interviews, and will complete the remainder of the interviews before the end of April. We have about 15 more to complete. Again, thank you for your participation, and your interest in this important topic!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Research update #6: Initial analyses underway

For those of you who are research savvy, and qualitative research savvy in particular, you might recognize the term "grounded theory." In this study, we are using Charmaz (2006)'s version of grounded theory. Part of this method involves taking time out during the beginning phases of your data collection to look at the data that you have thus far, and doing what is called "initial coding." Initial coding is basically making a line-by-line summary of what the participant said. It is useful because it keeps the researcher close to the data and using the participant's terms rather than using the researcher's own pre-conceived ideas about the topic under investigation.

So, we have conducted 10 interviews to date, and have transcribed them all. We are now going to do the initial coding process and discover what our data tells us thus far. Once we do that, we'll do another "round" of interviews (probably 10 at a time) to do more digging into the topic. The benefit of doing this "pause and reflect" method is that it gives the researcher the opportunity to revise her interview questions, or to explore a particular topic with future participants. It can help focus the data collection into more meaningful stories. This is essentially what an "emergent design" is intended to do. It helps the researcher see what meaning emerges from the data, and to follow that emergent meaning in subsequent data collection.

We'll post another update once we have completed the initial coding, and start up interviews again! Thanks for staying tuned!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Research Update #5: Interviews starting

We are now in the phase of contacting a handful of people with whom to conduct in-depth interviews. We will select about 30 people out of the 163 who participated in phase 1 (the survey). So, you may or may not hear from us, but if you do, we look forward to speaking with you! We are excited about getting underway with this phase of the research, and look forward to hearing your stories! Thank you for your interest in our research, and we will update the blog again periodically as the study moves forward.