Data Use, Technology, and Educational Leadership
Update: Thoughts about Dedoose have been updated here.
Some people prefer to do qualitative coding by hand. Although I have yet to find the “most perfect” program for analyzing qualitative data, I also couldn’t imagine how burdensome coding by hand must be.
A few years ago, I asked the dissertation listserv at UT-Austin about these sorts of programs. Since then, I’ve continued to add to the list of programs that have been recommended to me. The current list is below, along with some quick remarks. My comments and evaluation aren’t conclusive, but they do give one a sense for the things to look for in a product. I’m totally open to anyone who wants to change my mind or enlighten me to their perspective and uses of these programs! I begin and focus on Dedoose, because it promises a lot of things that many of us want.
Dedoose. I just started test-driving this one. It’s online and uses your web browser. That makes it easily used across computing platforms, and the ability to seamlessly share information across your whole research team is nice. You also only pay for the months you use the system This sounds cheap at first, but I could easily imagine needing to come back pretty often over time (i.e., when revising or resubmitting a manuscript). I liked the online “how to” videos, but so far have been finding the system a little clunky. For example, before tagging selected text with a code, you have to reach across the screen to the “excerpt” button. Then you have to drag all the way across the screen to assign the codes. These extra motions and steps slow you down, especially since you have to delete an excerpt and totally recode if you realize you’ve excepted a selection too long or too short. Also, a “child code” doesn’t automatically mark the “parent.” The analytics are fairly easy to understand, but there’s the occasional lag in speed. Some of the text and query outputs can be hard to read, and the saving of outputs has a small hiccup (you have to specify the extension, as in *.doc). One of my research assistants really loves Dedoose, but I’m still making up my mind.
Atlas.ti. It’s what I used for my dissertation and is most familiar to me. I love the ease of dragging and dropping codes to assign them. The “how to” videos were helpful for getting started. It does use terms and logic around queries that could rub some basic users the wrong way. Also, I’m not sure why, but the software pops up with updates quite often (and you need to log in as an admin to have them load). I have yet to completely understand the file management logic (e.g., you have to “bundle” and “unbundle” the “hermeneutic units,” which are comprised of “p-docs”); when files get moved on my computer, I always have a vague fear that I’m busting a link for Atlas to find the file. These thoughts are important when you think about sharing or collaborating with others.
TAMS Analyzer. I haven’t used this, but Apple users seem to be a big fan.
HyperResearch. I’ve met the CEO (a real nice guy) and it’s really popular here at BC. I haven’t used it, but my wife has tried it out (she’s a grad student). She’s new to qual research and said it had some pros and cons. From what I can tell, it also has some file management hiccups. Her research team was seemed to be doing weird stuff in order to make sure they could combine their work. But I wasn’t really paying attention; too busy watching Star Trek…
NVivo. People seem to love this one. I couldn’t figure it out. Go figure. I had a group of students use it for the dissertation, and they raved about it. They also described getting good customer support over the phone.
MS Office (i.e., Excel or Onenote). Believe it or not, I’ve done this. People do it. There are ways, and you probably already own the programs. But like moonshine, they may give you a sore throat or blindness. Excel is unreasonably bad, but Onenote might be good enough for a basic job? If anyone wants to know my recipe, feel free to get in touch.
Others I haven’t tried, but which came with a recommendation:
Update: I haven’t evaluated if any of these use video. I think that Atlas and ELAN do… the latter was recommended to me when I was studying conversation analysis (which uses video/audio to uncover sociolinguistic stuff), so that might be an option.