Analysing qualitative data can be tricky as there are no agreed methods, as there are for quantitative data, and there is no right or wrong way of analysing the data – analysis is subjective, based on the researchers own background and perspectives. There are, however, different recognised approaches that can be taken and for my data the most appropriate approach seems to be Thematic Analysis. This involves identifying themes that emerge from the data collected.
When I carried out my focus groups, I combined them with questionnaires, which were split into themes, based on my research aims. These would form the Upper Level Themes to which Lower Level Themes could be added once derived from the data collected. The main outcomes I hoped to achieve from my focus groups were to establish whether a design guide for Active Buildings would be useful, what sort of information it should include, how such a guide should be structured and how the information should be presented. The Upper Level Themes are described in the table below:
|Description||To determine whether participants find the design guide is clearly structured; and whether it is easy to find the information they need|
|Description||To determine participants opinion on the overall visual appearance of the document; the use of diagrams and their ability to explain principles; the balance of text and diagrams; whether they like the use of photographs, diagrams and drawings; how aesthetics could be improved|
|Theme||Active Building Explanation|
|Description||To determine whether the main aim of the Active Building concept is clear; whether it is clear what is meant by an Active Building; is it clear how Active Buildings fit into the overall UK government strategies for tackling climate change; is it clear how Active Buildings relate to other policies and regulations; what could be improved to make the concept clearer|
|Description||To determine whether the process to follow in designing an Active Building is clear; is the level of technical information provided sufficient; is it clear where to find additional information if required; is the use of case studies helpful in explaining the principles; would more case studies be helpful; will the information provided reduce research time when embarking on an Active Building project; would any additional information be helpful|
|Description||To determine whether the design guide has influenced ideas for low energy, climate resilient buildings; would having all the information on Active Buildings in one document make it easier to adopt the concept; should the guide contain more or less information on anything; what would a useful addition be; what are the best and worst features|
From these themes, I was then able to identify the Lower Level Themes, by examining the questionnaire results and the transcripts of the focus groups. This helped to identify the most important factors to participants when faced with a design guidance document. These are the themes I identified:
The conclusion was that participants definitely felt some sort of Active Building design guidance would be useful. A few in each session, including the online focus groups run as webinars, asked when it would be available. The most important factors were:
- There was too much text – use of bullet points and graphics preferred
- The document should have a consistent format, with clearly laid out pages
- It should be easy to access information for quick reference
- The need to maintain relevance of information – an online document would help
- The amount of technical detail – mixed responses here. Some preferred more technical detail, while others preferred less
- Case studies were useful
- The document was long – splitting it into separate documents could help navigation and to maintain relevance, particularly of information on technologies.
This testing was carried out on version 2 of my design guide. Having reviewed this feedback, I took the decision to split the document into several separate documents to form a Toolkit, as I’ve discussed in previous blogs. This will make it easier to access information; the documents are shorter, so more easy to digest; and it will be easier to ensure the information in them is kept up to date. I have also simplified the layout of the documents, so they are now of a clear, consistent format, structured in a logical way. The Toolkit can be accessed here.