What Is Qualitative Data Analysis Software?
Qualitative social research relies on various methods for systematizing, organizing, and analyzing qualitative data. Today, researchers increasingly make use of computer software for their qualitative data analysis (QDA). QDA software is used in many academic fields, such as sociology, psychology, political science, medicine, and educational science, and it is also a popular tool for businesses and market researchers.
QDA software serves to provide insights into qualitative data sets without suggesting interpretations. Based on a content analysis, the researcher can draw conclusions about the respective object of research (e.g. interview data). Software tools for qualitative data and text analysis allow for easy sorting, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of text or other data and facilitate the management of the resulting interpretations and evaluations. MAXQDA is one of the pioneer software programs in this field: the first version of MAXQDA was released as early as 1989!
How does MAXQDA support your Qualitative Data Analysis?
MAXQDA enables researchers to conduct research using many methods of analysis, such as those used in Grounded Theory, qualitative content analysis, mixed methods analysis, and discourse analysis.
The program’s central elements are the systematic assignment (“coding”) of data segments (text, tables, image, media) to major themes (“codes”) and the possibility to take notes of references, ideas, etc. directly in the text (“memos“).
In MAXQDA, analysis and evaluation can be done by sorting materials into groups, using a hierarchical coding system, defining variables, and assigning colors and weights to text segments. Easy access of analysis results and a variety of visual tools are further advantages of MAXQDA.
Data Analysis and Knowledge Management
Since its first release, MAXQDA has used the established terminology of qualitative research as part of the qualitative data analysis software, which contributes to the intuitive handling of the program. Today, memos in MAXQDA can not only be attached to text segments, but also to codes. Furthermore, a single memo can be linked with any number of codes. With its advanced memo manager, MAXQDA provides a unique management system for user-defined notes. This makes MAXQDA an excellent tool for knowledge management.
In addition to the traditional use of textual data in the social sciences, there is a trend toward the inclusion and analysis of image files as well as of audio and video materials. Therefore, state-of-the-art qualitative data analysis software ideally supports the analysis of texts as well as of media files (images, videos, audio recordings) and other types of documents.
The software should also allow for various methodological approaches, such as qualitative content analysis, Grounded Theory, discourse analysis, group discussions, and case or field studies. While qualitative data analysis software, in general, does not itself suggest or require a specific method of qualitative data analysis, it provides a broad choice of tools to facilitate a profound, systematic analysis of the abovementioned types of media, regardless of the chosen method of analysis.
The History of Qualitative Data Analysis Software
The first software programs allowing researchers to use a computer-based tool for their qualitative analysis was developed in the mid-1980s. Today, qualitative data analysis software is an established tool in the field of qualitative research.
In 1989, MAXQDA (named “MAX” back then) was one of the first QDA software programs worldwide and the first one to be released in Germany. Since then, MAXQDA has become one of the world’s leading professional tools for qualitative data analysis.