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Preparing for analysis: a practical guide for a critical step for procedural rigor in large-scale multisite qualitative research studies


Despite attention to technical aspects of conducting qualitative research, few studies describe procedures for managing pre-analysis activities in large-scale multisite qualitative projects. As part of the data collection for the Criminal Justice Drug Abuse Treatment Studies, a national multisite research cooperative with nine research centers (RCs) conducted 700 semi-structured interviews to evaluate interorganizational strategies in three protocols focused on improving addiction- and health related service delivery in criminal justice settings. Guided by the research cooperative, RCs collaborated on many aspects of the qualitative data activities (e.g., codebook development and coding activities), however, pre-analysis procedures, such as organizing and managing resources, were primarily managed at the RC level. The present study examines these various practices and describes two exemplary approaches to pre-analysis, with emphasis on lessons learned and recommendations for coordinating resources, managing data, and maintaining fidelity to the study procedures for large-scale qualitative projects.

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This study is funded under a cooperative agreement from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIH/NIDA), with support from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, U.S. Department of Justice. The authors gratefully acknowledge the collaborative contributions by NIDA; the Coordinating Center, AMAR International, Inc.; and the Research Centers participating in CJ-DATS. The Research Centers include: Arizona State University and Maricopa County Adult Probation (U01DA025307); University of Connecticut and the Connecticut Department of Correction (U01DA016194); University of Delaware and the Delaware Department of Corrections (U01DA016230); Friends Research Institute and the Maryland Department of Public Safety Correctional Services’ Division of Parole and Probation (U01DA025233); University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Department of Corrections (U01DA016205); National Development and Research Institutes, Inc. and the Colorado Department of Corrections (U01DA016200); University of Rhode Island, Rhode Island Hospital and the Rhode Island Department of Corrections (U01DA016191); Texas Christian University and the Illinois Department of Corrections (U01DA016190); Temple University and the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (U01DA025284); and the University of California at Los Angeles and the Washington State Department of Corrections (U01DA016211). The authors would also like to acknowledge Dr. Tisha Wiley at NIDA for the direction and guidance on CJ-DATS. The views and opinions expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not represent the views of NIDA nor any of the sponsoring organizations, agencies, CJ-DATS partner sites, or the U.S. government.

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Correspondence to Yang Yang.

Appendix: An example of the checklist for team logistics

Appendix: An example of the checklist for team logistics

Formatting, Labeling, and De-identification

  • Activities are completed

  • Check for accuracy

Managing Data Inventory

  • Documents have been moved to proper folders

  • All interview transcripts have been accounted for in folders

Hermeneutic Unit (HU) Management

  • HU has been installed in the designated directory

  • Confirm all documents are accounted for in HU

  • HU back-up has been completed weekly

Sharing Data

  • Confirm de-identification of pathways before uploading

  • Confirm all documents have been accounted for in HU

  • Confirm all files have been archived

Establishing Inter-coder Reliability

  • Team members have completed codebook training

  • Agreement among coder has been calculation

  • Set up additional training, if needed

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Yang, Y., Pankow, J., Swan, H. et al. Preparing for analysis: a practical guide for a critical step for procedural rigor in large-scale multisite qualitative research studies. Qual Quant 52, 815–828 (2018).

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  • Qualitative research
  • Procedural rigor
  • Team building
  • Inter-coder reliability
  • Multisite research