New book provides expert guidance on big qual

NCRM news
Ed Grover

A new book provides researchers with expert guidance on the analysis of large qualitative datasets, a practice otherwise known as big qual.

The publication, Big Qual: A Guide to Breadth-and-Depth Analysis, focuses on the application of an innovative research method that was developed during two NCRM projects.

The breadth-and-depth method combines two elements: computational analysis, which enables researchers to explore the breadth of a research topic, and more conventional forms of qualitative analysis, which allow a topic to be investigated in depth.

According to the book’s authors – Dr Susie Weller, Dr Emma Davidson, Professor Rosalind Edwards and Professor Lynn Jamieson – the breadth-and-depth approach means researchers can conduct large-scale analysis while harnessing all the usual elements of rigorous qualitative research.

Dr Weller said: "The book is organised around the broad stages of the breadth-and-depth method so that learners can easily engage in big qual through combining computational text analysis with rigorous in-depth qualitative methods.

“Readers can follow each chapter as an independent module. Alternatively, the method can be followed in its entirety.”

Book launch

A book launch will be held in London on Monday, 11 March 2024. It will take place at The Old Bank of England from 16:00 to 18:00. The launch is free to attend and registration is not required. Drinks and nibbles will be provided.

The event will begin with an introduction from NCRM's Director, Professor Gabriele Durrant, who will discuss the origins of the book, including the NCRM work package that led to development of the breadth-and-depth method.

Dr Susie Weller and Dr Emma Davidson will give an overview of the method and book, discussing their contributions to the development of research involving large amounts of qualitative data.

There will be commentary on the methodology and its relevance across the quantitative and qualitative paradigms from Professor Malcolm Williamson, of the universities of Cardiff and Exeter, and Professor Kahryn Hughes, of the University of Leeds.

For more information about the event, contact Professor Rosalind Edwards.

How NCRM projects led to a new research method

The new book is the outcome of two connected NCRM projects that began in 2015.

The first project explored the possibilities of conducting research with large amounts of qualitative longitudinal data from multiple projects. It resulted in the creation of the breadth-and-depth method. The work was supported by datasets from the ESRC-funded Timescapes Archive.

The second project, which began in 2018, focused on the development of approaches and tools for teaching big qual analysis. The team created an extensive suite of multimedia resources and ran training events in the UK and overseas.

In a new blog post on the NCRM website, the team gives an overview of the breadth-and-depth method and how it was developed.

Professor Durrant said: "This fantastic new book provides an incredibly valuable resource for qualitative researchers. The creation of the breadth-and-depth method unlocks a huge range of exciting avenues of inquiry into critical issues across our society.

"It shows the power of methodological research to produce innovative new practices and is an example of how NCRM research projects can produce significant long-term impact and upskill researchers."

NCRM has conducted and co-ordinated multiple research projects over the past two decades, working with leading research methods experts across the UK and developing cutting-edge training and capacity building activities from these projects.

Read more about recent NCRM research projects

Learn about NCRM’s research activity since 2004