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How to Use Cross Tabulations in Qualitative Research

Updated April 17, 2017

Qualitative research involves observations that are coded in non-numerical format. Open-ended interviews, case studies, logs, observations, historical records, diaries and discussions are all examples of qualitative research. Qualitative research is used when developing a theory that may later be tested with quantitative methods. When analysing qualitative data, statisticians categorising and organising data either within one subject's responses or across subjects. Cross-tabulation is a method of organising data to assess relationships between different data categories.

Gather the data. Typically this involves grouping words into categories based on the concepts being studied. A researcher could have conducted a series of open-ended interviews asking counsellors what factors contributed to burnout, for example. The research hypothesis may be that depression, trauma and anxiety lead to burnout. The researcher would read through interview transcripts, isolating words that he felt signified depression, trauma and anxiety.

Enter the data into a statistical software program such as Microsoft Excel, Minitab, SAS or SPSS to perform a cross-tabulation of gathered results. The words isolated by the researcher as important to the researcher would be the columns and individual subjects would be the rows. The researcher would count the number of times each of the subjects used the target words during the interview. The data might look like this:

Subject Number

1

2

3

Angry

12

3

4

Sad

4

5

2

The columns would be adjacent to each other in the data worksheet.

Choose the cross-tabulation function in the software program used. The cross-tabulation will organise the data into meaningful categories. A typical cross-tabulation might tell you, for example, the number of times people used the words angry, stress and depressed, for example.

Look for patterns. The researcher would use the cross-tabulation grid to look for patterns and relationships in the data. If subjects tend to use similar words when interviewed such as moody, sad and blue, for example, the researcher might speculate that these words are symptomatic of depression.

Things You'll Need

  • Statistical software program such as Microsoft Excel, SAS, SPSS, or Minitab
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About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.