If it the study is exploratory in nature, the investigator should make this explicit so that readers understand that the research is more of a hunting expedition rather than being primarily theory driven.
While data analysis in qualitative research can include statistical procedures, many times analysis becomes an ongoing iterative process where data is continuously collected and analyzed almost simultaneously.
Indeed, researchers generally analyze for patterns in observations through the entire data collection phase (Savenye, Robinson, 2004).
Ideally, investigators should have substantially more than a basic understanding of the rationale for selecting one method of analysis over another.
This can allow investigators to better supervise staff who conduct the data analyses process and make informed decisions While methods of analysis may differ by scientific discipline, the optimal stage for determining appropriate analytic procedures occurs early in the research process and should not be an afterthought.
Any bias occurring in the collection of the data, or selection of method of analysis, will increase the likelihood of drawing a biased inference.
Bias can occur when recruitment of study participants falls below minimum number required to demonstrate statistical power or failure to maintain a sufficient follow-up period needed to demonstrate an effect (Altman, 2001).While access to computer-based statistical packages can facilitate application of increasingly complex analytic procedures, inappropriate uses of these packages can result in abuses as well.Every field of study has developed its accepted practices for data analysis.Data Analysis is the process of systematically applying statistical and/or logical techniques to describe and illustrate, condense and recap, and evaluate data.According to Shamoo and Resnik (2003) various analytic procedures “provide a way of drawing inductive inferences from data and distinguishing the signal (the phenomenon of interest) from the noise (statistical fluctuations) present in the data”..Indeed, in exploratory science, there are no a priori hypotheses therefore there are no hypothetical tests.Although theories can often drive the processes used in the investigation of qualitative studies, many times patterns of behavior or occurrences derived from analyzed data can result in developing new theoretical frameworks rather than determined a priori (Savenye, Robinson, 2004).A number of studies suggest this may be the case more often than believed (Nowak, 1994; Silverman, Manson, 2003).For example, Sica found that adequate training of physicians in medical schools in the proper design, implementation and evaluation of clinical trials is “abysmally small” (Sica, cited in Nowak, 1994).According to Smeeton and Goda (2003), “Statistical advice should be obtained at the stage of initial planning of an investigation so that, for example, the method of sampling and design of questionnaire are appropriate”.The chief aim of analysis is to distinguish between an event occurring as either reflecting a true effect versus a false one.