Relational Analysis: Overview of Methods
As with other sorts of inquiry, initial choices with regard to what is being studied and/or coded for often determine the possibilities of that particular study. For relational analysis, it is important to first decide which concept type(s) will be explored in the analysis. Studies have been conducted with as few as one and as many as 500 concept categories. Obviously, too many categories may obscure your results and too few can lead to unreliable and potentially invalid conclusions. Therefore, it is important to allow the context and necessities of your research to guide your coding procedures.
The steps to relational analysis that we consider in this guide suggest some of the possible avenues available to a researcher doing content analysis. We provide an example to make the process easier to grasp. However, the choices made within the context of the example are but only a few of many possibilities. The diversity of techniques available suggests that there is quite a bit of enthusiasm for this mode of research. Once a procedure is rigorously tested, it can be applied and compared across populations over time. The process of relational analysis has achieved a high degree of computer automation but still is, like most forms of research, time consuming. Perhaps the strongest claim that can be made is that it maintains a high degree of statistical rigor without losing the richness of detail apparent in even more qualitative methods.