Surrey University, 7 December 2011
Report by Kristy Revell, Agent and PhD student, University College London
Finding out about the CAQDAS networking project
Getting to grips with Atlas.ti
Of particular interest to the Software Sustainability Institute, may be the Software Development Seminars run by CAQDAS. These seminars “offer software developers the chance to preview or showcase new or forthcoming software… Our aim is to bring users and potential users of software and the developers together at these events to enable discussion and dialogue about real world research issues”. See the website.
I attended the Atlas.ti 6.0 introductory training workshop on the 7 December 2011. The course was organised and run by Surrey Day Courses in Social Research in association with the CAQDAS (Computer Assisted Qualitative Data Analysis) Networking Project. The CAQDAS Networking Project is run from Surrey and funded by the ESRC. Their aim is to:
“Provide practical support, training and information in the use of a range of software programs designed to assist qualitative data analysis…platforms for debate concerning the methodological and epistemological issues arising from the use of such software packages and conduct research into methodological applications of CAQDAS” (see the website)
The majority of attendees at the workshop came largely from a health background, with some also coming from philosophy and the social sciences. There was a good representation of researchers with a background in more technical or scientific fields like myself and many of the attendees had found themselves at the workshop because they were trying to understand human observations that they could not explain through their usual channels of inquiry and research. Consequentially they had turned to interviews and focus groups to find their answers. This data now needed to be analysed.
Atlas.ti is a qualitative research data analysis software that allows researchers to methodically uncover observed phenomena in qualitative data. Data compatible with Atlas.ti is not limited to text but also includes audio, video and image data. The software allows the researcher to code the data to uncover underlying relationships within.
One of the main advantages of the software is that is has frequent and free updates. It was also noted in the workshop that it runs faster than other similar software on the market. This is because it links to the data files via the Hermeneutic Unit (HU), rather than importing the data. The HU is the "the container in which the data, growing theories about them, and your thoughts about the project are recorded and examined" (Lewins et al., 2011), essentially the HU is the project file.
Overall I feel that the software is useful and that I will certainly use it in my own research. Coming from a traditionally technical background, I like the rigour it gives to the analysis of qualitative data and the way it represents and displays relationships in your data that are difficult to visualise when all you have is a pile of transcripts in front of you. Also the course was well run and tailored to meet the needs of those there on the day.
More information on the courses that Surrey University offer can be found on their website.
Lewins, A., Silver, C., Patashnick, J., Hughes, G., (2011) Atlas.ti 6.0 Introductory Training. Workshop Handout.