Computer-Aided Qualitative Analysis Software


Computer-aided qualitative analysis software, also known as qualitative data analysis software (QDAS), was first introduced in the early 1980s, and many different programs exist (e.g., ATLAS.ti, Dedoose, MAXQDA, NVivo, Transana). QDAS programs offer many benefits to qualitative researchers. For example, they greatly speed up mundane aspects of qualitative research, allow researchers to effectively organize their research projects into one electronic file, and assist with tasks such as coding, annotating, diagramming, and generating reports. However, technology must always be critically assessed for its impact on practice. This entry is divided into four sections. First, an overview of the history of QDAS, in six stages, is described. Second, issues around usage are presented, such as how individuals report they are using the programs and if it makes a difference to one’s analysis whether a program is used or what type of program is used. Reflexivity is described in the third section, addressing factors such as the need to balance both closeness and distance with data when using software and how reflexive moments can (and should) occur throughout one’s analysis when using QDAS. The final section centers on pedagogical concerns related to teaching this software to individuals. A central theme of this entry is that although QDAS programs provide many benefits to qualitative users, the interpretation ultimately resides with the user; QDAS programs are no substitute for the hard analytic work carried out by the researchers themselves.

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