I am learning so much in grad school, and arguably the skill in which I have improved the most (besides programming) is qualitative data analysis. I started using Excel back in the 6th grade for Science Fair projects. Crazy to think that was in 1999. I took advanced math courses throughout high school and then continued to use my analysis skills when working in psychology labs at Duke and Carnegie Mellon.
For this WIC project, however, there are no sophisticated quantitative analysis, at least that I have done so far, since almost all of my data is qualitative notes based on interviews.
The experience has been very enjoyable however and in a way has reminded me of detective work. I know the “culprit” (lack of awareness of children’s development) and am now looking for contextual clues as to how parents approach (or don’t) the problem. The focus of the interview is asking parents how they find information related to children’s health and why they prefer that method. I also present them with five different options for learning about children’s development (kiosks, booklets, texts, website, smartphone app) and ask them to rank them in order of preference. Again, I ask them why they ranked these tools the way they did.
While clearly each parent brings a unique perspective, three core values are consistently emphasized. Each one is also associated with a preference for learning about children’s development:
- Convenience/ease of access (prefer text messaging and/or phone apps)
- Interest/ desire to learn (prefer website and/or booklet)
- Trustworthiness of information (prefer kiosk in WIC/doctor’s clinic or asking a doctor in person)
It also contrasts interestingly with a text analysis assignment I did in an information visualization course I am taking. We had to find the “hidden terrorist plot” in a set of 50 FAKE (this was not real!!!!) documents using software our professor implemented. Here we had no direction however, so it was frustrating taking a shot at the dark. Additionally, in the scenario presented, we only had 50 documents and could not “look up” any additional. We could of course Google things to look for potential relationships between the entities mentioned in the documents (e.g., looking up where there are major airports in the US since several cities are mentioned in the documents as potential targets). For the WIC project, I had the benefit of interviewing additional parents, which I did, in order to get a clearer picture of patterns of behavior. I was not restricted in any way, besides the fact that I had to limit the duration of these interviews.