1 Watch – Videos: Take masterclasses from other researchers – avoid common pitfalls, get encouragement, and ensure you’re going in the right direction with short videos that explore key terms and processes in qualitative research. Corresponding questions online help you internalize important lessons and apply them to your own project.

15.1: What QDAS can and can’t do for you

This 9-minute video provides an overview over what this type of software can and can’t do in your analysis – check it out if you want a more visual approach to the general functionality of this type of software: 

Guiding questions:

Evaluate: How would you use the functions for organizing, annotating, searching, and displaying in your research project? Which of these functions would help you the most as you’re trying to answer your research question?

Connect and Reflect: Based on what you’ve seen in the video: What other types of software have you used that work in a similar way? What did you enjoy about using it, and what was less enjoyable? What were the barriers you ran into when you learned to use that software? And what have you learned about yourself as a learner from this experience?

15_2 QDAS use as workflow design

Get Started: Video

  • Watch the video in which Prof. Karen Andes explains how she develops thematic clusters of data. 

Guiding Questions

  • Compare: Have you used a similar strategy to sort information? What was your goal when you did this? 
  • Describe: Why is Prof. Andes attaching short comments to the coded segments? How does that help during the development of themes?
  • Reflect: Think about your personal work style. What advantages do you see in doing the process that Prof. Andes described in her software? What advantages do you see in doing this with a whiteboard or on a big table with printed-out snippets of data?

Get Started: Interview Transcript

  • Read the transcript from an interview with an experienced researcher. In this passage, they describe how they start the analysis process, and how they use memos during coding.

Guiding Questions:

  • Describe: What is the role of memos for the researcher? What role do memos play in analyzing data in teams?
  • Describe three techniques that the researcher uses to ‘build a code book’. At the same time, describe three analytic products that these techniques produce.

Pat:  Every time I create a code I also attach a code memo to it. And, in that code memo, I provide a definition or a description of the code. So, you know, [?what it appears to be?], generally what the code is used for, perhaps, you know, what, what would not be part of this code, if you know, if there is some kind of a fine detail we're looking for. And, sometimes I'll even include, you know, just a short example in that too. And again, a lot of that is for consistency, of course both within myself, but,you know if it's a team, then I'm leading with a team of RA’s [Research Assistants] or something and I want to make sure that they have the information they need to apply the code book consistently.

So, it's going through and adding, essentially, code by code, clarifying that definition, description. As, you know, I think about new things, I'll click that code memo again and modify it to update the definition, the actual code label itself might actually change too, so I- I rename codes, you know, pretty often going through to sort of get a clearer sense of really what it is. I do use, along with that part of building initial codebook the- the option to move coded segments. So, if I want to combine two codes of a previously split out, I- I use that pretty often, or, you know, of course, to to delete a code too. But, it is, it is really pretty iterative in that, you know, going through a document once, the codes are going to change quite a bit and then going through it again going through and more documents, they'll continue to evolve quite a bit. So, I'm going through it line by line building out the codebook. And then, what I do is I- I actually export that code system along with the memos so I have, you know, the code and then the description. And then, you know, send that out to the team, and usually, there's, you know, discussion that goes along with that too. And, if it is a team effort, well, well, you know, really just go through a transcript, for example, line by line and talk about, you know, who has what code of line where and go through it that way.

Take this exercise further: Interview QDAS users

Prepare one to three guiding questions that you would like to ask a QDAS user. Refer to exercise 15.1 in this online companion to learn how you can make contact with QDAS users on your campus. Example Questions:

  • I’m interested in how you make sense of your data. When you first interact with your data, what do you do?
  • I’m interested in how you come up with your coding scheme and code definitions. If I were watching you do this, what would I see? 
  • I’m interested in how you summarize information - can you show me how you do this with the help of QDAS? 
  • If you could time travel, what hint or strategy would you provide your past self regarding learning to use QDAS? 

When something becomes routine, it can become harder to talk about it in detail. For example, it takes a lot of different actions and movements to put on a sock. But if someone asks you about how you get dressed in the morning, you might just say “first, I put on my socks”. But if you’ve never put on a sock, there might be important information they are missing. Therefore, be prepared to ask probing questions that unpack some of the analysis steps your interview partner describes. Suppose they say:

  • “First I build a code book, and then I start with initial coding”.  Ask them “Can you explain to me what building a code book entails? What would I see if I would watch you build the codebook?”
  • “My first step of analysis is to make case summaries.” Ask them: “Can you describe to me what you do when you write case summaries? What would that look like if I were looking over your shoulders?

Online resource material for this chapter authored by Christian Schmieder.