Systematic Analysis Methods for Research

OPENING THE MYSTERIOUS BLACK BOX
Author:
Katherine Bennett
Company/School:
Art Center College of Design

Katherine Bennett
Art Center College of Design

Qualitative research fieldwork produces clouds of data. We must ensure that no idea is lost and that comprehensive understanding is produced. While much has been written of research methods and even individual analysis techniques, not much has been written about systematic methods of analysis. At the EPIC 2009 conference John Payne conducted a workshop to develop an “analysis/synthesis palette” based on work done by Steve Baty. At the time, Payne described how most researchers talk about analysis, saying that we describe the framing and methods for the fieldwork, and follow that with something like, “and then the magic happens,” as if the analysis happens shrouded in mystery inside a “black box.” To practitioners, students, and especially our clients, a better explanation of the process could be provided. (Payne 2009) Payne’s work opened up the black box and provided a thorough and exhaustive process that would serve practitioners well (and would make sense to clients), but its sixteen discrete operations might be too in-depth for students, especially undergraduates, especially in a research process within a short time frame.

Over the years we’ve taught a dedicated research course for undergraduates and graduate students, we saw that a methodological system for conducting analysis was called for. Early on, we adopted the KJ
Method. Pioneered by Jiro Kawakita in the 1960s and sometimes called an Affinity Diagram or more informally, a clustering exercise, the resulting wall of Post-It notes is now...read more.