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Home arrow Law arrow The Voluntary Sector in Prisons: Encouraging Personal and Institutional Change

Data Collection

The lead researcher (and first author of this chapter) carried out all of the semi-structured interviews in private interview rooms at the prisons. These interviews were recorded using a password-protected digital Dictaphone, and they lasted 62 minutes on average (range: 34-88). The interview schedule was divided into four sections and covered the following areas:

  • • Impact of programme involvement on the person—thoughts and feelings regarding peer-support role, exploration of how the role impacted on the individual and their experiences of imprisonment.
  • • Future—views of future in the context of the peer-support role, exploration of how this role has shaped thoughts about future self.

The lead author transcribed all of the data and engaged in discussions with the second author that helped to identify potential themes. The researcher also took some brief notes relating to emerging thoughts and ideas during the data collection period.

Analytic Technique

This study adopted Braun and Clarke’s (2006) phenomenologically oriented approach to thematic analysis. We selected this method of analysis as the sample size (n = 17) exceeded that recommended for studies taking a traditional phenomenological stance.

The goals of phenomenological enquiry are to generate a detailed perspective of personal lived experience, develop an understanding of the meaning of experience to participants, and explore how participants make sense of that experience. As such, phenomenologically oriented analysis is particularly useful when examining experience which is of “existential import to the participant” (Smith, 2011, p. 9). This strand of analysis necessitates the detailed analytic attention of each transcript and the search for emerging patterns across all transcripts. It requires a rigorous qualitative analysis of rich personal accounts.

Initially, notes relating to interesting thoughts and ideas were made in the left-hand margin of the transcripts. The next level of analysis involved focussing on more psychologically based concepts and turning initial thoughts and ideas into more specific phrases or labels. The aim here was to generate a summary of the data, in the form of a broad range of labels and phrases relating to key concepts. Finally, we carried out a data reduction strategy whereby emerging concepts were redefined and categorised under superordinate and subordinate themes. Superordinate themes represented particular phenomena evident within the data set through analogies, metaphors, or free discourse (Larkin, Watts, & Clifton, 2006). Subthemes were clustered and assigned to superordinate themes based on how participants’ expressions interweaved with other subthemes, and how they shaped their parent (superordinate) themes. This entire process was repeated for all transcripts, with equal attention dedicated to each. Of course, as qualitative researchers, we remained vigilant of the possibility of blurring the boundaries between the participant’s account and our own interpretations (Smith, 2011). In order to ensure quality in this regard, we both read through a sample of transcripts independently and made separate notes regarding emerging themes. These notes were contrasted against each other and disputes resolved through conversation and re-examination of the findings.

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