You are on page 1of 7

Analysing qualitative data by computer

By Nigel Fielding
Methods of doing social research are continually advancing. New developments in
information technology enable complex analyses to be carried out on a personal
computer. Laptop computers and computer assisted telephone interviewing change
fundamentally the way in which surveys are done. New statistical techniques are
being developed which are better suited to the kinds of data which social researchers
generally deal with. New approaches to qualitative data raise new theoretical and
ethical problems.
In face of all this change, social researchers, pressurised to produce results, often do
not have time to keep up with the latest developments. It is to fill this gap that we are
producing Social Reseach Update.
Social Research Update will be published every three months or so and distributed to
social researchers in the UK. Initially, it will be available without charge. Once it is
established, we hope that we will be able to obtain support from other sources to
cover its running expenses.
Each issue, we will cover one topic in sufficient depth to indicate the main directions
of recent developments and provide a bibliography for further reading. If there is
room, we shall also list courses, addresses and other useful information.
Social Research Update is produced by the Department of Sociology at the
University of Surrey. Sociology at Surrey is one of the leading sociology departments
in the UK concerned with developing and teaching methods of social research. We
run part-time and full-time Masters' courses in Social Research that train graduates
in social research as a career. We offer full-time, part-time and a unique
'Collaborative' PhD programme for those who are employed in research posts. We
also regularly offer two and three day courses on aspects of social research
methods. We teach quantitative and qualitative methods, and use them ourselves on
a wide range of policy related and basic research problems.

Writing for Social Research Update
We welcome contributions to Social Research Update. Theme articles should be
about 2,000 words in length and aimed at a general research audience. If you are
thinking of contributing, it is helpful if you contact the Editor as early as you can (see
the address on page 4). We also welcome paid advertisements.
Comments on this issue of Social Research Update can be sent to the Editor or the
contributors by post or email. We look forward to your reactions to this new venture.

Qualitative Data Analysis with a computer: recent developments
Nigel Fielding, University of Surrey


But other packages. It is also apparent that some software imposes a very light touch on the analyst. may be led into slavish adherence to conventions that are set into program assumptions. Another major use was in market research. grounded theory approach. while developers have already advanced 'over the horizon'. Thus. Around 15 dedicated qualitative analysis programs of various kinds are currently available. it largely relates to the conventional. A number of researchers have also adapted word processing and text retrieval programs to help in qualitative analysis (for an overview of the programs. however. being confined to simple. It has been claimed that 'computer use in qualitative sociology is advancing faster than in quantitative research' (Hinze 1987). but by no means universal. especially those with little qualitative experience and those working under the pressure of applied research settings. Indeed. where the focus group approach continues to represent a distinct branch of the field. is responsible for teaching qualitative methods and has research interests in criminal justice and qualitative methodology. There is a perceived danger of superficial analysis produced by slavishly following a mechanical set of procedures. the main impetus came from academic seminars including social researchers and computing enthusiasts during the early 1980s. Reader in Sociology. albeit rapid. ethnomethodology. It offered to address the needs of researchers working under the pressure of short-term 'soft money' contracts and yet who retained an enthusiasm for the intrinsic interest of qualitative data. Among his books are The National Front (1981). see Tesch 1991). Those preferring hermeneutic approaches. Linking Data (1986. conversation analysis or holistic analysis are less well-served. has written of his fear that researchers. Many qualitative researchers believe that the use of software poses a threat to the craft skills of a long-established research tradition. that the existing software contains an implicit theory of qualitative analysis. The arrival of word processors with text retrieval and handling capacities was the background for the development of specialist qualitative packages. remain an interest only for those in 'pure' academic disciplines. notably NUDIST and Atlas-ti. While some early experimenters began developing their own software for particular qualitative applications almost as soon as they had assembled their first DIY personal computer. The authors of NUDIST explicitly claim that their software 'transforms' qualitative analysis. on micro-sociology and macro-theory) and Using computers in qualitative research (1991). text retrieval (database software such as SONAR).] Computer-Assisted Qualitative Data AnalysiS (CAQDAS) is a recent development. users are too conservative and reluctant to use features which are technically feasible. a text on triangulation). The software did not. promise much more. the creator of one of the most popular programs. a researcher considering whether to use a package on a particular project needs to take into account the kinds of analytic work the software facilitates and the 2 . The co-developer of Atlas-ti has complained that. From the first it gained substantial use in applied research. Seidel. This does not mean that CAQDAS is the answer to every qualitative research problem. one which is not conducive to the full range of analytic postures customarily found in this eclectic field. He is also editor of the Howard Journal of Criminal Justice.[Nigel Fielding. There is also a more profound concern. Developers of Hypercard-based applications report that much of their time is spent removing features so as to make their programs accessible to qualitative researchers. Insofar as existing software presumes a generic theory of qualitative analysis. Actions and Structure (1988.

The 3 . NUDIST is specifically designed for multi-access use. where there is little need to interrelate categories with other transcripts. Relationships in the data are displayed in 'tree structures' which users may initially find daunting. For example. Thus. and another (or several. The current version allows onscreen coding and the attachment of 'memos' to coded data. but it is best suited to analysis of the 'cut and paste' kind rather than analytic approaches based on. For the most part researchers regard CAQDAS as just another tool. the degree to which holistic as opposed to segmental analysis is facilitated. graphics packages (SuperPaint. Users have adapted it to many individual analytic approaches. Turning to dedicated packages. and now has an interface to the quantitative data management program SPSS. Aldus) and word processing. provides 'audit trails' of retrievals. and printed.. if you'd like to participate. a few remarks about two well-known packages help to sketch in some key considerations that users face. categories can be extracted by searches and sorts. has been upgraded periodically and is now a rather sophisticated program for IBM PCs and compatibles. In contrast. say. it might make sense to use The Ethnograph. This effectively duplicates the process of writing marginal notes when working with paper. depending on the amount of data you have and the depth of analysis you want. the very limits of the existing software seem to hold at bay problems of the sort expressed by Siedel. You can always return the transcript to its original context by sorting by NUMBERS. first developed in the early 1980s. by convening focus groups (we plan to carry out more soon. Fortunately. to be used when appropriate but not when analytic closure would be premature or when sample size or features of the data do not justify the time setting it up (Lee and Fielding 1991).g. a straight-forward database like Microsoft Works is certainly adequate for inductive coding at the sentence level of transcripts. The overhead in setting up and using packages is not always worth it. Compared to The Ethnograph. perhaps one for each family of coding categories) to hold a set of CODEWORDS. What's around This section concerns dedicated software for qualitative analysis. database and spreadsheet programs (Works. It indexes on-line and off-line data. let me know!). and one for sentence NUMBERS. Microsoft). outliners (MORE. does not allow simultaneous access to data files by multiple users. Word and Excel. Tom Synder Productions). For the last year Ray Lee and I have been researching user experiences with CAQDAS. the relevance of the features included in the software to the analytic procedures employed by different research traditions.kinds of work for which it is unsuitable. Its not very wellsuited to use on networks and. You just create a record template with a field for sentence TEXT. or a word processor and outlining software. the emphasis is on conceptual relations between codes rather than on the construction of typologies where the relationship of data to code is the pre-eminent concern. such as timeliners (MacTimeline. conversation analysis) is facilitated. sociolinguistics. and the degree to which micro-analysis (e. In making choices it is important to know what sort of manipulation or presentation is required and on what scale. Those who have used CAQDAS generally find the 'threat' of the software implausible. or revert to highlighting pens and Post-It notes. When this is complete. These are all for Macintosh but similar software exists for all platforms. like other similar programs. The Ethnograph. Sentences are then coded by typing the names of coding categories in the CODEWORDS field. Symantec). But a variety of common programs are useful.

CA 92240 USA. Searches can be done on single or multiple codeword(s). an updated Resources Appendix appears in the new edition available from March 1993..V. Each can be identified by up to 12 codewords. mapping. Statistical option allows for the simple analysis of coded data. Hard disk essential for version 4. coding and quantifying data.2 or higher. Search results are sensitive to nests and overlaps. Hyperfocus. HyperResearch A HyperCard-based application that allows for qualitative and quantitative analysis of textual. Existing coding schemes can be selectively or globally modified. The ETHNOGRAPH Allows you to identify and retrieve text from documents. Or Dr R. A HyperCard application (stack). Reporting allows for the displaying or printing of text and the replay of coded segments of audio or video. Desert Hot Springs. With such points in mind we can go on to some descriptive profiles. Tel. Site licenses available. word processor. Single copy $150 plus $20 shipping. indexing. Includes memo feature and codebook feature. Padilla. Basic unit is the segment.. is also available.. recommended for earlier versions. 73425 Hilltop Rd. HyperCard ver. An expert system provides a semi-formal mechanism for theory-building. (619) 329 7026 HyperQual Provides an integrated environment for data entry.2 or higher. Macintosh with System 6. observations and documents. $175 Distributor: Researchware Inc. Randolph MA 02368-1945. Ł50 4 . 1. Includes procedures for summarizing. Chandler. 20 Soren St. categorizing. Distributor: Qualitative Research Management. especially prices. Designed to assist in the analysis of text data from interviews. This section is based on a selection from the Resources Appendix in Fielding and Lee (1991). memory and illustrations. Some details. USA. Runs on all PCs and compatibles.2 or higher. Segments can be nested and overlapped 7 levels deep. 1. A special package for focus groups. 3327 North Dakota. hard disk. searching and extracting textual data. Hypersoft Offers facilities for filing.0 or later and HyperCard ver. Expresses relationships in the data graphically on screen by width of linking line. are subject to change. Distributor: as per The Ethnograph. $125 plus $10 shipping. Any Macintosh. AZ 85224 USA. audio and video materials. Tel (617) 961 3909.0 or later and HyperCard ver. Macintosh with System 6. annotating. Each data file can be identified by facesheet variables. copying. 1.interface is common across platforms and advisory support is available to those who can call Australia.

45 Colinton Rd. Just 4 menus. or a pattern of words. as well as a set of nonBoolean operators which encourage generation of new ideas. Distributor: NUDIST Project. including single words. Textbase Alpha 5 . Text unit may be any length you like. QUALPRO Provides basic functions needed by qualitative researchers. Tel (613) 479 2857. network AUS $1000. 2 MB+ Macs on Appletalk network. titled. Victoria 3083 Australia. pure cut and paste. Edinburgh EH10 5EN NUDIST Uses flagging and text search to construct a possibly large and highly structured hierarchical database indexing into the documents to be analysed. Mainframe version supports multi-user multi-database projects. minis or mainframes that have any version of Common LISP. NY 13244-4100 USA. Mac version needs any Macintosh with minimum of 2 MB free main memory. have text comments added and be shifted to other locations in the indexing structure. similar conception to Ethnograph. $700 site licence Distributor: Ernest Sibert and Anne Shelly. Retrievals use a complete set of Boolean operators on indexing categories. such as an if-then query. To support emerging theory. Uses LogLisp. $160 Distributor: Qualitative Research Management (see address above) QUALOG Emphasises Dewey's 'induction process'. especially for postgrads. La Trobe University. Macintosh single user AUS $250. Text search can be word. Syracuse. Hard disk. School of Computer and Information Science. ACRI. Good introductory program. Text segments can be identified flexibly. Replies are confirming and disconfirming instances. Can have several windows open to have data and codes on view simultaneously. PC version for 386s. phrase. Bundoora.. indexing categories are independent objects which may be modified. 4-116 CST.0 or higher. Syracuse University. Mainframe AUS $1500. Unappealing interface. site AUS $3000. All retrievals are added back to the indexing system as additional indexing categories. and are available as the basis of further and more abstracted retrievals. or by facesheet variables such as pulling out all interviews with women. User formulates queries about codes. IBM PC/XT/AT or 100% compatible with DOS 2. Representation of node relationships ('tree structures') is not graphical. Mainframe only. codes attached and segments retrieved. Many relationships are built in. at least 128k RAM. Search for co-occurring codes on basis of overlap and nested segments. During 1993 a network of franchised dealers is being set up.Distributor: Ian Dey. DEC VAX/VMS or IBM CMS/VM.

D1000 Berlin 12. Searching and assembling of coded segments is supported along with frequency counts. like AI/formal logic relations. 80386 SX (or better) based PC-AT with system speed greater than 20MHz. Finally. including The Ethnograph. Unknown price. Link files (conceptual categories). Similar code memoing to Ethnograph ver.4. the project is headed by Paul Atkinson. Technische UniversitŠt Berlin. Distributor: Qualitative Research Management (address above). Like NUDIST. Distributor: No commercial distribution as yet. text level (segmenting. SPSS interface and Graphical User Interface. IBM-compatible 80286. Good introductory program. Unlimited codes for text segments. and particular packages. followed by your commentary on text. Data can be on screen with your comments and an index of comments. The ins and outs of CAQDAS. there is a need for systematic evaluation of program capabilities. In the US. filename and page number). You get a series of statements expressing textual relationships. as well as narrative texts of any kind. 4MB RAM. like 'this statement justified that'. Comment window attaches to datum. There is work being done at University College Cardiff on the evaluation of selected software. Minimal file preparation. Conditional searches on Boolean basis. simple.Permits coding of data which have an internal structure. coding) and theory building (manipulating and specifying code relationships). emphasis is on inter-code relationships and theory-building. Current details from the developer. can code portions of line and can be used with a mouse. SONAR Enhanced text retrieval software which allows coding. Atlas-ti Sophisticated package with an impressive interface. Keeping in touch 6 .00 or higher. and data matrix output. Preliminary findings were presented at the Bremen conference (details below) in October 1992 and the fieldwork will continue over the next 12 months. 640k RAM and DOS 2. Some progress is being made. IBM/XT and fully compatibles. Projekt ATLAS. 28. basic and fast. rather than straight code and retrieve. Dr Thomas Muhr. the group at Boston College associated with the Mac program HyperRESEARCH is beginning to carry out detailed and explicit assessments of software. though you can edit in codewords. Networking tool. Ray Lee and I are engaged in the focus groups mentioned above which are looking at the experiences of users of several selected packages. Hardenbergstr. Code categories have to be in the data. instant retrieval of target phrases (especially useful for structured interviews). $160 Distributor: Although this program was developed in Denmark it is most straightforward to order from Qualitative Research Management (address above). Demo only at present. Two levels. Completely new version ('Textbase Beta') now at advanced stage with new features. a VGA graphics adapter and monitor is necessary. query browser. and inter-code relations. Instant index (occurences in corpus. The users voice Like other software. are a recurring topic on the 'QUALRSĐL' e-mail discussion group (details below).

Egham TW20 0EX (tel. The Surrey conference inaugurated a series. with the second at the University of Colorado in Breckenridge and the third at the University of Bremen. Hinze (1987) 'Computing in sociology'.cc.If you are looking for an introduction to CAQDAS. Social science computer review. Royal Holloway. probably in June/July. Lee. (1991) Using computers in qualitative research. R. or contact the organiser. Germany.. K. Tesch (1991) 'Software for qualitative researchers: analysis needs and program capabilities' in Fielding and Lee. Nigel Fielding and Ray Lee convened a conference on the subject in 1989. Note that QUALRS-L concerns all aspects of qualitative research. at Syracuse University. 7 . Details will appear on QUALRS-L. If you want to participate in the 'QUALRS-L' electronic discussion group. eds. 0784 443152). Further reading N. 5:439-51. closer to the containing the message: Subscribe QUALRS-L <your name. you can join by sending a message to listserv@uga. The fourth conference will take place in 1994. Fielding (1991) 'Options.uga. New York. Fielding and R. Prof. Egham Hill. Lee and N. Ray Lee has run short courses in the autumn for several years. Surrey's involvement in all this largely began when Nigel Gilbert. Anne Shelley (address shown in entry for QUALOG above) or Nigel Fielding at Surrey. Ray can be contacted at the Department of Social Policy and Social Science. institution>. R. problems and potential' in Fielding and Lee. Sage. not just CAQDAS.