Buston, K. (1997) 'NUD*IST in
Action: Its use and its Usefulness in a Study of Chronic Illness in Young People'
Sociological Research Online, vol. 2, no. 3, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/3/6.html>
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Received: 14/2/97 Accepted: 19/9/97 Published: 30/9/97
The debate about whether to compute in qualitative research seems to be over. ... All researchers working in the qualitative mode will be clearly helped by some computer software (Richards, 1995: p. 105).
Qualitative researchers ... always bring with them their own lenses and conceptual networks. They cannot drop them, for in this case they would not be able to perceive, observe and describe meaningful events any longer - confronted with chaotic, meaningless and fragmented phenomena they would have to give up their scientific endeavour (Kelle, 1997: ¶4.2).
Brilliant interview but very sad case. Two months on we hear that she is now in hospital, close to death. She has a very great insight into her illness and identifies closely with others with anorexia. [Name of psychiatrist] comments on both these points in the case notes too. Clare talks a lot about her sister - there seems to be resentment there, Clare sees her as getting everything while she gets nothing. Similar sibling stuff to interviews with Stephanie and Julie [also suffering from anorexia nervosa]. Lot on family relationships and control.
Steroids seem to be of particular concern in the case of asthma, see interview with Dr. Martyn Partridge. Talks about 'steroid phobia', says it often arises because those with asthma are not given sufficient verbal and written info to permit them to appreciate the 'risk versus benefit' argument in favour of inhaled steroids. It says that this is fault of communication between health professionals and people with asthma. Look at this point in relation to our data.
* How well do you stick to taking your medication?
Before I went into hospital I was very bad. I didn't like the asthma - still don't - but I really grudged having the asthma. I used to be very very active. I took part in a lot of sports and some limitations really annoyed me so I just wanted to forget about it and get rid of it and I didn't take the inhalers properly, but I got a fright in hospital and now I take it just like that [Catherine].
* How well do you stick to taking your medication?
At first when I was getting used to it I used to forget to take it all the time and I wasn't taking it for ages and I was getting worse and all that and then once I started taking it regularly I just realised how much it helped so I just started taking it all the time [Maureen].
* So you always take your medication when you should?
Yes, the way I see it, if I didn't take it, you know. When I first got diagnosed as having asthma I would avoid taking my medicine. I would say 'yes Mum, I've took it, I've took it' until I ended up ill and I was in hospital and I thought I've got to get my act together and I started taking my medicine all the time, so from when I was about 12 I started taking it regularly. When I was younger I'd take a puff here and there cos I was quite embarrassed at first of having asthma cos I was left out of things at school because of it so I just didn't bother. It was after I took ill and going into hospital I thought I'd better stick to it [Britt].
2 The study context is important in making a decision on the size of text units. What is desirable will depend very much on the style of interviewing and the talkativeness of the respondents. Respondents were young in this study, many were unused to talking about themselves in this way, and some were fairly inarticulate so continuous answers, uninterrupted by an interviewer's prompt, probe or further question, tended to be short (rarely longer than 10 sentences or around 20 lines). Furthermore, most of the time most of the respondents answered questions directly, not digressing from their main point.
3 This was not the only way in which the tree structure could have been used to organise the data. The manual, tutorial and some users have all pointed to the central tree structure as encouraging the researcher not only to arrange categories in relation to one another so that unmanageably large nodes can be split, but also so that a conceptual framework can be built that can be used, in itself, to shed light on how ideas and concepts are related.
4 Data in the descriptive and conceptual nodes are not mutually exclusive, there is much overlap. A young man's answer to the question about 'future worries', where he tells the interviewer how he fears he will never find a job because he has been labelled as 'head injured' and 'not right in the head', is indexed conceptually under 'stigma' in addition to being coded under 'future worries'.
5 Although it tended to be the case that the nodes of most interest at this stage were the fuller nodes, with the emptier ones being disregarded, this was not always the case. Whilst almost all of the respondents had something to say about hospital visits, for example, with the result that this node was very large, I did not feel that this data was of central importance in answering the research question. On the other hand, the stigma node was much smaller, but its contents were of central relevance to understanding the day-to-day lives of many of the mentally ill young people. Enquiry was directed by a knowledge of the data, built-up during the lengthy process of indexing, not simply by the size of nodes.
6 Although Lynn Richards, a co-creator of NUD*IST, has never claimed or pretended in her papers to be neutral in this matter and, indeed, has been critical of the package and her use of it on occasion.
7 Version 4 of NUD*IST became available early in 1997. It is not, essentially, different from Version 3, but has an improved interface, is more user-friendly in several other respects and has several new functions (including the ability to import and export from any table-based software). Had this version been available during the chronic illness project described here, little in the substance of the procedures described would have been altered.
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