Preparing Data for Analysis and Triangulation

Step 3 - How to Prepare the Table for Data Triangulation

Congratulations! You made it through Step 3. Get ready to triangulate those three big data sources. Getty Images | Andrew Rich | Vetta Collection

Preparing to Merge Tables Using Key Sort Categories

This article describes how to set up a table in a word processing application so that the researcher can bring together data from different sources.  This step is critical to data retrieval during analysis and to capture demographic information that can be important to the study.  For example, it is useful to highlight the criteria used to select the study participants, as these attributes can be important to the analysis.

The criteria or attributes are the basis for identifying key sort categories.

At this stage of the data table preparation, it is helpful to think about the information that will be key to retrieval of data when data tables are merged.  Consider the many conditions for which data analysiswill be made easier and more accurate by merging tables:

Adding Columns to Tables

So far, the data table would show these columns (left to right): Participant Name or ID; Theme Code, Moderator Questions / Participant Response; Sequence. However, to fit this page, the column for Participant Name or ID has been left out in the table example below   Note that in practice, this column is essential for analysis. 

The next columns to be added will show selection criteria or participant attributes.

  For example, a researcher may wish to be able to sort participant responses by their role in an organization, by age, or by gender

Recall that the text in rows containing questions asked by Interviewers or Moderators are made bold in order to stand out visually from the responses of study participants.

It is helpful to format the table in landscape view since adding columns for pertinent criteria or attributes will extend the width of the table considerably. 

Using Short Labels for Key Sort Categories

Sort categories can be represented by numbers, letters, or number letter combinations.  Instead of writing out the sort categories in full words, a researcher may choose to use short tags instead.  For example, in the table above, the organizations are different orchestras around the world.  The orchestras can be matched to short tags as follows:

  • Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra = S
  • Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles (YOLA) = L

The roles of individuals in the organizations can also be coded.  Some examples are below:

  • Conductor = 1
  • Concert Master - 2
  • Musician = 3
  • Music Teacher = 4
  • Festival Director = 5

Example Step 3.

Table for Analysis of Multiple Source Data

  Organization  Age  Role  Theme  Code  Interviewer Questions / Participant  Responses Sequence #  N/A  N/A   N/A  4.205 Interviewer:  How did playing ensemble music in the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra influence how you felt about being a boy from the barrio?  45

 Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

 23 Musician  4.205

Before I joined El Sistema, I was a bit of a trouble-maker.

I stopped thinking of myself that way once I learned to play an instrument.  I am convinced that practicing with the other music students, every afternoon and every Saturday morning, kept me from getting into serious trouble.



The market research budget of a small business owner or, especially, a home-based business generally does not have room for spending large sums on software to analyze the qualitative data collected for business development.  This series of articles provides step-by-step information on how to use an ordinary word processing application to conduct text analysis for qualitative market research.  The processes described can be applied to the analysis of quantitative data collected from surveys researchfocus group sessions, and in-depth interviews

Next Steps

If you have read through Step 1 and Step 2, you know how to set up the data table and the code book.

  Now you are ready to learn about the two main types of approaches to coding used in qualitative data analysis.

The next step in the preparation for data analysis is: Step 4 - Coding Data with Multiple Theme Codes.

Links to all of the articles in the series are provided below.

A Beginner's Guide to Do-It_Yourself Qualitative Data Analysis

Step 1. Set Up Table and Column Headings

Step 2. How to Prepare a Code Book for Qualitative Data

Step 3. How to Prepare the Table for Data Triangulation

Step 4. Assign the Codes to Prepare for Data Analysis

Step 5. Perform Sorting with Combined and Isolated Codes

Step 6. How to Perform Code Validation and Merging of Data Tables

Step 7. Advanced Considerations in Qualitative Data Analysis


LaPelle, N. R. (2004).  Simplifying qualitative data analysis using general purpose software tools.  Boston, MA: University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Miles, M. B. and Hubermanm, A. M. (1994). Qualitative data analysis: An expanded sourcebook (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

Dey, L. (1993). Qualitative data analysis: A user friendly guide for social scientists.  London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.MacQueen, K. E., McLellan, K., Kay, K., and ilstein, B. (1998).  Code book development for team-based qualitative analysis.  CAM Journal, 10, 31-36.