Analyzing Qualitative Anthropological Data
Anthropology 325
Fall 1998

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Course Description

Qualitative data, or data that come to us primarily in the form of texts, images, and sounds, are of crucial importance in several areas of anthropological research, especially cultural anthropology, ethnohistory, and linguistics. This course examines approaches for qualitative data analysis (QDA), with emphasis on tools that assist the researcher to discover patterning in texts. These tools have become available as part of a recent surge in the development of theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches for qualitative data analysis. We will explore these developments and apply some of the potentially most productive tools to the analysis of anthropological data sets.

There are several course objectives:

  • Define a philosophy of qualitative data analysis;
  • Learn how to manage, code, and retrieve information contained in fieldnotes, online documents, and electronic text databases;
  • Investigate computer tools for text exploration and analysis; and
  • Assess the validity and reliability of interpretations based on QDA.

Students should have completed Anth 318, "Anthropological Research Design," or an equivalent course that covers the fundamentals of research problem formulation and data collection methods. Student who are unfamiliar with basic Windows or Mac computer applications, such as a word processing package, are unprepared for this class and should not sign up for it.

This class is designed particularly, but not exclusively, for students who are working on their own research (e.g., undergraduate honors thesis, predissertation paper, MA thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, or article). Grading will be based on problem sets, class presentations, and a seminar project designed and implemented by the student.

Course Outline

Click on a line to see a general synopsis of what the topic includes, or access each part separately through the "lectures" and "assignments" buttons.

Disc/Lec: 12 MW, 209a Davenport/ 12 F, 206 Lincoln Hall

Aug 26


Aug 31

Digital Documents and Data

Sep 9 & 14

Qualitative Data Analysis Approaches

Sep 21

Early Analysis Steps

Sep 28

Within-Case Data Displays

Oct 5

Cross-Case Data Displays

Oct 12 & 19

Student Presentations I

Oct 26

Critical Analysis (mostly literary approaches)

Nov 2

Content Analysis (mostly quantitative approaches)

Nov 9

Analyzing Images

Nov 16

Validity & Reliability

Nov 23-Dec 11

Student Presentations II

Dec 18

Seminar Papers due by 1 pm


Each student will be expected to participate actively in class discussions and presentations.  Problem sets that apply principles covered in class will be assigned throughout the semester.

Semester Project (40% of your final grade)

This is the key assignment of the course.  It is intended to give you the opportunity to apply the course materials in a real analysis of your own design (which we can help you to develop if need be).  See the project guidelines for details.

Homework (40% of your final grade)

In keeping with my belief that the course materials are best learned by applying them, there will be 7 homework assignments, all but one of which are worth 4% of your final grade. The exception is the Reading National Geographic case study, which will count 12% of your final grade.

Feel free to discuss the homework problems with other students but I want to see your work, not a group consensus. I also want to see the details of your work, but don't hand me a 2 cm thick printout and expect me to explore it to find your answer. If I cannot reconstruct from your homework papers how you came up the interpretations or answers you turn in, then you will receive a low grade for the assignment. See the Assignments section of this class web page for homework deadlines. Late homework will be marked down a letter grade for each day it is overdue.

Class Presentations (20% of your final grade)

Each student will have to give two class presentations on their semester project.   Both presentations will be critiqued by the class. Presentation I (5% of your final grade) will give you the opportunity to summarize your semester project for the class.  This is a useful exercise because (1) it helps me to ensure that you really are working on something, and (2) it helps us all to see what everyone is doing.   Presentation II (15% of your final grade) should be a formal paper that describes the problem, methods, analysis, and results of your study.


  • Qualitative Data Analysis: An Expanded Sourcebook, by Matthew B. Miles and A. Michael Huberman. 1994. 2nd Edition. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.
  • Reading National Geographic, by Catherine A. Lutz and Jane L. Collins. 1993. University of Chicago Press.
  • Other assigned articles will be on reserve in the Anthropology Reading Room (193 Davenport Hall).


Instructor: Barry Lewis
Hours: 8-11 Wednesday
Office: 209f Davenport Hall
Phone: 244-3501