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Interpreting Qualitative Data

Interpreting Qualitative Data

Fourth Edition
  • David Silverman - Visiting Professor at the University of Technology, Sydney and King’s College, London, Emeritus Professor at Goldsmiths’ College and Adjunct Professor at Queensland University of Technology

Other Titles in:
Qualitative Research

520 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd

In this major updating of his bestselling, benchmark text, David Silverman walks the reader through the basics of gathering and analyzing qualitative data.

New to the Fourth Edition:

• A new chapter on data analysis dealing with major contemporary approaches (e.g. grounded theory, discourse analysis and narrative analysis)

• An expanded chapter on quality issues which now includes advice on how to read and use research reports

• Further worked-through examples of different kinds of data and how to interpret them

• A separate section on focus groups and interpreting focus group data

• An expanded ethics chapter

• More coverage of digital media and photographs as data

• A companion website with additional case studies and examples; links to SAGE journals online; and links to useful websites, podcasts and Youtube videos.

This fourth edition is also accompanied with its own group page on where users can give feedback and discuss research issues.


What Is Qualitative Research?
In Search of a Working Definition

Loaded Evaluations of Research Methods

Methods Should Fit Your Research Question

The Good Sense of Quantitative Research

The Nonsense of Quantitative Research

The Good Sense of Qualitative Research

The Nonsense of Qualitative Research

Varieties of Qualitative Research

Designing a Research Project
Selecting a Topic

Formulating a Researchable Question

Fitting your Research Question into an Appropriate Theory

Choosing an Effective Research Design

An Effective Literature Review

Basic Terms in Research Design


Data Analysis
Some Rules for Data Analysis

Content Analysis

Grounded Theory

Narrative Analysis


Research Ethics
Ethical Pitfalls

Ethical Safeguards

Some Ethical Complications

Ethnography and Observation
The Ethnographic Focus

Methodological Issues

The Theoretical Character of Ethnographic Observations

Conclusion: The Unity of the Ethnographic Project

What Is an 'Open-Ended' Interview?

Why Interview?

Implications: Three Versions of Interview Data




Adolescent Cultures: Combining 'What' and 'How' Questions

Moral Tales of Parenthood

The Three Models: A Summary

Summary: Basic Issues

Three Practical Questions - and Answers


Focus Groups
What Are Focus Groups?

Analysing Focus Group Data in Social Science

Form or Substance?

Concluding Comments

Structure of This Chapter

Comparative Keyword Analysis (CKA)


Ethnomethodology: Membership Categorisation Analysis


Naturally-Occurring Talk
Why Work with Tapes?

Transcribing Audiotapes

Why Talk Matters

Conversation Analysis

Discourse Analysis

Conversation Analysis and Discourse Analysis Compared


Visual Images
Kinds of Visual Data

Research Strategies

Content Analysis


Workplace Studies


Credible Qualitative Research
Does Credibility Matter?





Writing Your Report

Your Literature Review

Your Methodology Section

Writing Up Your Data

Your Final Section

A Short Note on Plagiarism

Self-Expression or Argument?

The Relevance of Qualitative Research
Three Roles for the Social Scientist

The Audiences for Qualitative Research

The Contribution of Qualitative Social Science



The Potential of Qualitative Research: Eight Reminders
Take Advantage of Naturally Occurring Data

Avoid Treating the Actor's Point of View as an Explanation

Study the Interrelationships Between Elements

Attempt Theoretically Fertile Research

Address Wider Audiences

Begin With 'How' Questions; Then Ask 'Why?'

Study 'Hyphenated' Phenomena

Treat Qualitative Research as Different from Journalism

Concluding Remarks


'David Silverman's stellar new text demonstrates both his methodological sophistication and ability to reach students. With its well-organized format and accessible writing, this book provides an inspiring guide for novices and an excellent teaching tool for instructors. The book is clear, cogent, and remarkably current. Silverman introduces students to numerous recent innovations and advances in qualitative methods as he makes the research process understandable and manageable' -
Kathy Charmaz
Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, USA

'Silverman sets the benchmark for books on qualitative research and data analysis. They work well in teaching but are consulted by the experts. His experience and close engagement with contemporary developments is without equal. Interpreting Qualitative Data has helped shape contemporary qualitative research. As far as I am concerned, with this new edition the best just got better!' -

Jonathan Potter, Head of the Department of Social Sciences
Loughborough University

Useful for an overview of methods for interpreting qualitative data.

Mr Michael Bickerton
School of Digital Media Technology, Birmingham City University
March 19, 2015

Helpful exploration of qualitative research, ideal for final year undergraduate as well as postgraduate students. Practical and usable, a useful addition to the qualitative research library

Ms Sue Watling
Centre for Educational Research and Development, University of Lincoln
December 15, 2014

I recommended my studients this book for qualitative data Interpretation. Silverman with his constructivist viewpoint offers a great introduction into how to best deal with phenomena occuring in the social world.

Miss Johanna Held
Rechts- , University of Bayreuth
December 12, 2014

Strongly recommend as key text for students studying qualitative analysis

Ms Louise O'Boyle
School of Art and Design, Ulster University
August 12, 2014

Good background ideal for MSc level student and dissertations for BSc. Student might not be up to this level of reading initially with BSc cohorts but for health care related programmes excellent place to help support students with dissertations and higher level degrees.

Mrs Sherran Milton
School of Healthcare Studies, Cardiff Univ.
July 15, 2014

A really clearly written book that will be a useful resource for students undertaking their first research project

Ms Julia Bennett
Dept of Interdisciplinary Studies, Manchester Metro Univ. (Crewe)
June 30, 2014

an excellent book for dissertation writing students.

Mr Paul Tansey
Civil Engineering & Construction, Sligo Institute of Technology
June 26, 2014

For social science researchers and teachers in my context and excellent text

Sue Horder
Education, Glyndwr University
May 21, 2014

Silverman is the best on qualitative analysis.

Dr Mickey Lauria
Planning, Development, and Preservation, Clemson University
March 28, 2014

Sample Materials & Chapters

Chapter One

Preview this book

David Silverman

David Silverman is Visiting Professor in the Business School, University of Technology, Sydney, Emeritus Professor in the Sociology Department, Goldsmiths’ College and Adjunct Professor in the School of Education, Queensland University of Technology. He has lived in London for most of his life, where he attended Christ's College Finchley and did a BSc (Economics) at the London School of Economics in the 1960s. Afterwards, he went to the USA for graduate work, obtaining an MA in the Sociology Department, University of California, Los Angeles. He returned to LSE to write a PhD on organization theory. This was published as... More About Author

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