Diagramming as a Tool for Exploring and Reflecting in Qualitative Analysis

“Diagramming” is a core component of ResearchTalk’s Sort and Sift, Think and Shift data analytic approach.  The goal of diagramming is to provide a visual space for reflecting and thinking through puzzles and qualitative discoveries that you consider throughout the life of a project.  The ‘space’ allows you to entertain possibilities for paths to pursue during analysis and can also be a productive environment as you prepare for presentation.

Drs. Maietta and Hamilton will walk course participants through the flexible processes of engaging diagramming at different phases of analysis. As a project begins, diagramming is analogous to a think aloud space.  Analysts may group quotations from one or more datafiles to consider how they work together to form clusters of ideas to pursue through analysis. At later stages, diagramming can help researchers assess versions of content, figures and tables that might be included in publication.

Diagramming is rarely an isolated activity:

  • Memoing provides an opportunity to narrate diagram content and reflect on its meaning and implications.
  • Diagramming and memoing also work together as powerful tools analysts can use to depict holistic pictures of data collection episodes (episode profiling in the Sort and Sift approach).
  • Diagramming couples with topic monitoring (a dynamic form of coding in the Sort and Sift approach) early in a project as analysts consider emergent topics.
  • As projects progress, analysts can and should use diagraming as a tool to explore how core project ideas develop into themes that thread through data.
  • Diagramming encourages researchers to practice linking data with potential claims they may put forth. Using evidence to make your points is an art that needs to be cultivated. Use diagramming as your cultivation tool.

Drs. Maietta and Hamilton intentionally focus on the process of ‘diagramming’ instead of diagrams as a product.  At the end of the course, they hope participants regularly use diagramming as a way to play with data and brainstorm different directions to explore at any stage of analysis. In this way “play” is cast as a necessary intellectual activity that unearths more powerful claims that accurately represent the lived experiences of the people who generously share their stories, energy, thoughtfulness and time.

The course draws on material from:

  • Forthcoming: Maietta, Raymond C., Reifsteck, Erin J., Petruzzelli, Jeff, Mihas, Paul, Swartout, Kevin, & Hamilton, Alison B. “The Sort and Sift, Think and Shift Analysis Method” (chapter 16), in Richards, K. A., Hemphill, M. A., & Wright, P. M. (Eds.). (2024). Qualitative research and evaluation in physical education and sport pedagogy. Jones & Bartlett Learning.
  • Maietta, R., Mihas, P., Swartout, K., Petruzzelli, J., & Hamilton, A. B. (2021). Sort and Sift, Think and Shift: Let the Data Be Your Guide, An Applied Approach to Working With, Learning From, and Privileging Qualitative Qualitative Report26(6), 2045-2060. https://doi.org/10.46743/2160-3715/2021.5013