The Idea behind the Summary Grid

The systematic analysis of texts or other information is often about analyzing the data systematically within a structural framework, summarizing it and then grouping it in different categories.

The idea is to look for theoretical explanations for certain phenomena as well as for similarities and differences between texts. In this process, it is important to focus on what the research participants precisely said. But on the other hand, the researcher should also detach from the participants own words. His aim is to sum up and express what was said abstractly, and to eventually present it in a way that is understandable for the recipient. During this analytical procedure, the “raw data”, that is for example interview transcripts, records, field notes etc., should be accessible at all times. The Summary function is available in MAXQDA for this purpose.

Another function that is used to summarize content are paraphrases, but summaries and paraphrases have very different applications and requirements. The following research blog article explains which function can be used for what:

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MAXQDA’s Summary function distinguishes two work stages and offers two individual working environments for these stages:

First, the phase of Summary Creation and second, the phase of Summary Analysis and Summary Presentation. For the second phase, results tables (so-called “Summary Tables”) based on the summaries are available, as well as summary matrices for comparing summaries for individual cases and groups.

The summary functions can be called up in the menu ribbon in the Analysis tab:

Summary functions in the Analysis Tab

In order to create summaries, the segments that you want to analyze must already be grouped thematically. This might have been done with the use of structured interviews, thematic coding, or automatic coding. If the text is already coded with a Code System, a structure texts * codes already exists; you can view it using the Code Matrix Browser.

You can picture the summary level as a thematic grid, i.e. a matrix documents x categories (codes). MAXQDA has a matrix like this called the Code Matrix Browser (CMB). It displays the texts in the columns and the categories in the rows.

The Summary Grid is a second analytical level that contains the summaries written by researchers for every node of the CMB. The user writes individual summaries and can edit them later, e.g. by adding or altering the information. The idea is to present the summaries in overview tables at a later stage of the analysis. This grid allows every summary to stay linked to the original text segment from the raw data.