Life-Span Developmental Psychology: Methodological Contributions

By Stanley H. Cohen; Hayne W. Reese | Go to book overview

8 Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data Management: Some Recent Innovations in the Management and Analysis of Field Notes

Aaron Podolefsky Professor of Anthropology, Dean, College of Social and of Behavioral Sciences, University of Northern Iowa

The discipline of sociology was exploring quantitative research methods when the first computer, ENIAC, appeared in 1946. As more computers were created, and computer technology gradually diffused throughout academia, social scientists used the newly available calculational capability to expand methodologies. Increased acceptance of complex quantitative research methods during the thirty-year period from 1946-1976 was grounded largely in the availability of computer technology. ( Collins, 1981, p. 438)

Collins goes on to note that in 1946, 54% of American Sociological Review articles and 46% of the papers published in the American Journal of Sociology were without mathematical analysis. Thirty years later, by 1976, the proportion had dropped to only 12% for the American Sociological Review and 14% for the American Journal of Sociology. Moreover, in 1946 most (66% and 58%, respectively) of the quantitative analyses relied solely on percentages and cross-tabulations. In 1976 the most popular methods involved multiple regression, and techniques involving matrix manipulation were becoming more commonplace. Because of the relative "ease" of producing analyses that would have been nearly impossible 30 years earlier, the computer (for better or worse) transformed the face of sociology.

The point I wish to pursue in this chapter is that the contemporary development of computer technology to do what Bernard and Evans ( 1983) term "word crunching" will result in a transformation of qualitative methodology analogous to that which occurred in quantitative methods four decades ago. In the first stage of this development, computers will

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