Step Two: Significant Statements and Horizontalization

The second step in Creswell’s (2007) phenomenological methodology is to develop a list of significant statements from the data. Given that the data were submitted in written form, this was a hermeneutic phenomenology analysis, the search for understanding about a human experience through written texts.
Participants in the study were asked to write a few sentences to explain in more detail their responses to the quantitative survey items. These responses totaled about 4000 words. The data were compiled into a spreadsheet and imported into QSR NVivo 9 ™ for analysis.

The written responses were first read multiple times to allow the researcher to become familiar with the nature and tone of the responses. Coding was then conducted per-question, rather than per-participant. The codes were generated based on the researcher’s interpretation of the responses provided for each question.

A total of 959 passages were identified as being relevant to the research questions. From these passages, 84 discrete codes were identified.

NVivo allows the user to create a hierarchy of codes; therefore, codes were sorted into themes in alignment with the research questions. These coded passages, or significant statements, were transferred back to a spreadsheet. Then, in a process called “horizontalization” (Creswell, 2009), each statement was treated with equal value and overlapping or repeated statements were removed from the list of significant statements.

The result was a total of 227 significant statements organized into 65 minor and four major meaning units or themes. The list was further reduced through a process of eliminating those statements that were deemed to be less relevant to the research questions. The reduced list included 80 significant statements in 18 minor and four major themes. The four major themes focused on the following:

  • the student’s approach to learning and the cognitive skills generally employed by students in the course;
  • the value derived from the study buddy activity;
  • recommendations about the structure of the study buddy activity;
  • the experience of those who chose not to participate or the negative experiences of participants in the study buddy activity.