This chapter provides an overview of the research process of text-based qualitative research. The chapter not only explains what it means to work with texts in a qualitative manner, but outlines the various options researchers have at their disposal in trying to answer the research questions that most interest them, including rhetorical methods, discourse analysis approaches, and ethnographic methods. The chapter also provides readers with a step-by-step overview of the process of doing text-based qualitative research, ending with a discussion of ethical considerations in qualitatively analyzing texts.
One of my most vivid memories from graduate school was the answer that I received from a professor when I asked, “How do you analyze a text?” He responded without pause, “You find an interesting text and look for what makes it interesting!” This answer was unsatisfying at best. Only later in my qualitative research classes did I begin to get a sense of what I should do with the primary sources that I had collected and wanted to write about.
Now, as a teacher myself, I find my students asking similar questions – “How do you find a text worthy of analysis?” “What makes a text interesting?” and “Once you have it, what do you do with it?” – only to find those same unsatisfying answers slipping off my tongue. In acknowledgment that these answers can confound more than ...