In order to be credible, qualitative data needs to be gathered objectively and systematically. Systems can be set up to code open-ended comments from interviews, surveys, or themes from meetings and public forums according to their meaning and then group those with similar meanings together for analysis. This two-part analysis provides quantifiable statistics by counting number of like responses (prevalence of responses) as well as the deeper meaning behind them (themes that emerge from the coding process).
In Two-Way Mirror, Maribel Alvarez provides insight on how ethnographers are methodical in their field work, for example, they:
- Gather a variety of information from different sources.
- Understand both who is present and absent from the experience; understand and locate the group or community in its broader context (geographic, cultural, ethnic, occupational, etc).
- Keep a journal, diary, or notebook of field notes; are descriptive in their note-taking; are disciplined and attentive to details and things unspoken; include notes about their own feelings and experiences as an observer.
- Record interviews and extended conversations; transcribe key quotations to represent program participants in their own terms.