How do I…
conduct my Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) data analysis?
How do I…
conduct my Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) data analysis?
Do you want to…?
Reduce overwhelm by learning how to do your IPA analysis in a step-by-step way
Get to grips with coding your IPA data through a guided group exercise
Gain clarity on how to develop your experiential statements (ES)
Understand the process of clustering those Experiential Statements into Personal Experiential Themes (PETs)
Understand how to develop your cross-case analysis and Group Experiential Themes (GETs)
Feel more confident about how to present your master table of GETs
Of course, my main recommendation for top-notch support and instruction in this area of your project is to attend my ‘Introducing IPA Data Analysis: the fundamentals‘ workshop (obvs)
This is so that I can guide you step-by-step through the sometimes bewildering terrain of conducting your preliminary analysis of your (no doubt, voluminous) data for your IPA
In this workshop we:
~ systematically work through the practicalities of conducting your IPA analysis by hand
~ learn how to do your IPA analysis step-by-step with clarity
~ help you develop your analytic skills through a practical exercise working on an excerpt of data as a group
~ learn how to operationalise reflexivity so that you can effectively incorporate this essential feature of a high-quality IPA analysis
This is one that you really cannot afford to miss…
Read on for more immediate guidance on how to go about conducting your IPA data analysis
The drama of IPA data analysis
An area that commonly causes a great deal of anxiety and confusion for students is exactly how to go about conducting their IPA analysis. For a novice qualitative researcher, this can be:
- a scary unknown
- a hugely anxiety-provoking task
- difficult to envisage how it all works from written ‘how to’ accounts
The first thing to remember is that most of you that find yourselves on this page are learning how to conduct qualitative research and more specifically an IPA. You are not yet ‘the finished product’ researcher
And thus, it is ok to get it wrong and not be great at it as you are still learning!
Full transparency alert: my prof doc story
I had a massive eight participants for my IPA study plus a pilot (far too many, way back in the mid-noughties – I am showing my age), giving a grand total of nine lengthy transcripts to wade through. What a mission!
Put frankly, I had no clue what I was doing:
~ I had only ever done quantitative research before
~ There was no ‘book’ to guide me (it was published the year after I graduated)
~ The best instructional input I could rustle up was to slog around the country in person finding any IPA training I could attend (I was like some sort of rabid IPA groupie)
Picture the scene:
I had a towering stack of transcripts sitting on my desk, scaring the living daylights out of me
I fell into a black hole of despair and extreme avoidance
A couple of months passed by
I felt hideously stuck like a rabbit in the headlights and in a blind panic
How could I have even thought that doing something like this was possible for me?
How did I get through this sticky patch?
The universe presented a lifesaver and procrastination breaker in the form of Dr Richard de Visser at the University of Sussex
I attended an introductory IPA workshop just prior to the annual summer IPA conference (Yes! There used to be a yearly conference! Those were the days… *wipes a little tear away from the corner of her eye*)
Richard very calmly and clearly outlined the steps that I needed to follow with a level of detail I had not found in any textbook
He broke it down into manageable chunks with clear instruction on how to proceed at each step
We did some practical exercises to help us understand what we needed to do
I went home and got started immediately
Truth bomb alert! It takes time to find your own way through your IPA analysis
It took ploughing through the first three of my transcripts before I started to feel in any way like I knew what I was doing and had found MY ‘IPA analysis groove’
So, be aware that it takes time to get the hang of the analytic process in IPA
Getting into my own ‘IPA analysis groove’
By the time I got to the end of all nine transcripts I felt that I had really mastered the process of initial exploratory coding, thematising, and clustering and had found my own particular way of doing IPA analysis
This is what ‘the IPA dons’ express in the 2009 and 2022 book as adapting the suggested analytic steps to your own requirements and to fit with your data once you get the hang of what you are doing
And so, guess what I did next?
You got it – I went back to the beginning and re-did the first three transcripts…
So this is what we mean when we say that IPA is iterative, that it takes time to get to grips with the analytic process, and that you need to find your own personal groove with it all
I certainly do not expect my supervisees to hit the ground running with IPA analysis, especially if they have never done any qualitative research before
I understand that it takes time to develop the skills and finesse to do a good quality preliminary analysis that achieves sufficient depth and synthesis
It can be an arduous and lonely process and, as always, I do recommend finding a study buddy or other form of support to help you through this phase of your research. See what I have written about this aspect of your research journey here
It is highly likely (if not inevitable) that you will fall into a black hole of despair, feel utterly overwhelmed at times, get really bored with the whole thing and/or feel that it’s all going horribly wrong at various points during the analytic process
If this happens, please don’t worry – it is entirely normal!
Be kind to yourself and try to work around it
For example, draw on peer support or supervision
Alternatively, move on to something else so you at least feel you are doing something productive – reading literature and making notes is always a good option in these moments or even filing or organising your materials if you really are stuck in a black hole
Then come back to it later
Get support with your IPA Data Analysis
If you require high-quality supplemental support for this essential and potentially pretty gruelling phase of your project, then I would love to take you by the hand and guide you through the process of IPA data analysis step-by-step in my Introducing IPA Data Analysis: the fundamentals workshop
This session is delivered in a small group setting where you can benefit from an extensive guided exercise developed specifically to help you learn the practicalities of initial exploratory coding/noting for your IPA
The workshop aims to provide you with the knowledge and help you find the confidence to get to grips with this section of your research process and has been fully updated to reflect the new IPA terminology for the analytic process
The course is an excellent grounding in the basics of IPA analysis, and the quantity of resources provided to students is impressive. I’m happy to recommend the course
Introduction to IPA Data Analysis, September 2021
What else can I do?
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Delve into articles that outline tips and tricks to help you navigate your Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) data analysis with ease, plus the answers to frequently asked questions in this area
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The new terminology for Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) data analysis: what is it all about?
This article explores the new terminology for the analytic process in IPA that was recently introduced in the second edition of Smith, Flowers and Larkin (2022). While this is an exciting new development in IPA, you may be feeling discombobulated by what it all means...
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