research, Rural Women Educators, Writing, Storytelling

Data: a gathering with friends

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How to you read your data? How do you analyse and dissect the information you have gathered doing your research?

I have spent the morning ‘hanging’ out with the data today and it has been a joy.

It is as though I have been to a gathering of friends, meeting to have a meal at the end of semester. Each one is keen to share what has been happening in their world. There are voices interjecting as someone new comes along; another person shifts seats. There is laughter and clapping, as dishes are passed down the table. There are some quieter voices at one end of a table and hushed tones of reassurance. Someone wipes a tear from her cheek.

The data is after all stories of real people in real situations. Each woman interviewed has presented her story as an educator and leader in a rural context.  The story of the personal and the professional. The’ story as an identity’. And my role is to create a story out of the disparate and interconnected stories that are before me.

Just as I would in a gathering of friends, I acknowledge that I cannot talk to everyone at once. I may have several meaningful exchanges but the reality is I may only touch base with one or two of the people. I may need to do more listening and reflecting on the body language and facial expressions than ‘take in’ a whole conversation. I must listen to the silences, the gaps. I can sit and observe, watching carefully.

I apply this to how I approach my data, the words on the page, the transcripts that bring to life the interviews, the conversations.

I have listened to each interview in real time and as a recording. I have transcribed each interview, pulled out extracts, coded each according to themes, tracked common ideas and words, identified metaphors and highlighted questions. The whole ‘gathering’ then becomes smaller groups as I break down the data into bite size, digestible chunks.

Each new approach offers new insight, as I play with the data.

As I cast my eye along the table and the gathering of participants, I know that getting to know each one and the group as a whole will take time. But this is how I am reading and making sense of my data today. As a gathering with friends.

 

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