As a PhD student in geography, managing and analyzing information is probably my primary task. I spend hours each week reading articles and books, taking notes, writing for courses or conference presentations, and keeping up-to-date with current news about my research topic.
I also have field notes and interview transcripts from my own original research. I have found MAXQDA to be an extremely useful tool for managing the core tasks of academic research.
MAXQDA is designed to allow researchers flexibility when processing qualitative and quantitative data.
MAXQDA is most useful when users take advantage of its flexibility and integrate it into their own personal workflows. For me, MAXQDA has become the primary way I keep track of academic literature reviews. If I am reading an academic article, I import the article into my sources list, while if I’m reading a book that is not digitized, I will type quotes or notes into a text document created in MAXQDA.
Next, I work back and forth between reading the text and coding sections of the text according to key concepts that have emerged from other sources. For geographers, “space” and “place” are two key theoretical concepts. Therefore, I tend to be on the lookout for how authors define these concepts (explicitly or implicitly) and how they use case studies to exemplify their interpretation of space and place. While this process started out as constructive, over time I have developed a corpus of interpretations and examples for various key concepts. When confronted with a new argument involving space and/or place, I can retrieve all the other instances of these concepts across the articles and books I’ve read, and explore how various interpretations converge or diverge.
All readers engage in this cognitive process naturally if subconsciously. MAXQDA is useful because it allows me to code those fleeting connections quickly and come back to them as needed. This process allows me to read more thoroughly. When it comes time to write a conference abstract or term paper, I can easily find and export the work I’ve done so far to Word or Excel along with the relevant citations.
Austin Kocher is a PhD student in the Department of Geography at the Ohio State University.
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