Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Making Critical Connections: How to Apply the Analytic Guiding Frame (AGF) and Overall Guiding Frame (OGF) in Qualitative Data Analysis

Academic journal article The Qualitative Report

Making Critical Connections: How to Apply the Analytic Guiding Frame (AGF) and Overall Guiding Frame (OGF) in Qualitative Data Analysis

Article excerpt

In the last four decades, the qualitative research movement has gained significant traction such that we have seen a build-up of qualitative research analytical methods that have all but cemented the way mainstream qualitative analysis is carried out. Although the paradigm wars may not have ended (Given, 2017), qualitative researchers have welcomed this development. Narrative inquiry, phenomenology, grounded theory and symbolic interactionism are among some of the methodological movements that have become staples. Expert and widely used references (e.g., Bazeley, 2013; Creswell, 1998; Crotty, 1998; Denzin & Lincoln, 1994; Glaser & Strauss, 1977; Huberman & Miles, 1994; Ritchie & Lewis, 2003) offer important arguments about research paradigms, approaches of methods rooted in the different paradigms and provide many useful and practical accounts of real research carried out in line with some of the research traditions. What this does is establish structured bases for doing social scientific research. In so doing however, the cyclical process remains of only establishing what is already entrenched in mainstream thinking, without pushing new boundaries, or in the Kuhnian sense, shifting paradigms (Kuhn, 1996). This may contribute to extending false universalism(s) thus forming a unilateral and hegemonic perspective to how reality is defined and understood (Denzin & Lincoln, 2005). Hammersley (2008, p. 157) speaks about this when he discusses research rhetoric, particularly in terms of how "guidelines can?(transform) into fixed rules that are rigidly enforced?through their mechanical application." Hammersley advocates for researchers to embrace the challenge of staying honest with the complexities of their research findings. This means being able to exercise critical reflexivity when confronting unpredictable data and data analytical decisions. It is this need to exercise critical reflexivity and the question of how the connections are made that will be addressed in this paper.

The Challenge with Making Critical Connections

When shifting from data management to data analysis, qualitative researchers often find the process "daunting and bewildering" (Smith & Firth, 2011, p. 4). Thus, what this comes down to is the challenge of having to make critical connections that link raw data with the broader research discipline such that researchers can "draw valid meaning from qualitative data" (Miles & Huberman, 1994, p. 1). However, one of the main challenges in making critical connections is the unpredictable, context-bound way in which data are collected, analysed and understood.

This challenge is also a strength; the fundamental principle of qualitative research lies in the way that it is contextually-bound. As Snape and Spencer (2003) described:

There is no single, accepted way of doing qualitative research. Indeed, how researchers carry it out depends upon a range of factors including: their beliefs about the nature of the social world and what can be known about it (ontology), the nature of knowledge and how it can be acquired (epistemology), the purpose(s) and goals of the research, the characteristics of the research participants, the audience for the research, the funders of the research, and the position and environment of the researchers themselves. (p. 1)

As such, qualitative inquiry and analysis require not only the acknowledgement of critical reflexivity but also, more importantly, the ability to negotiate and write coherently about this in relation to or even against the grain of ready-made analytic methods in the field. It is important that the researcher negotiates the complexities that have emerged from the analytical process. If the complexities are not explicitly negotiated, the audit trail is weakened. Fundamentally, when established methodologies and the corresponding analytical methods cannot fully fit the researchers' context and fieldwork, reasons for why and how there is absence of fit must be given. …

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