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Export and Import REFI-QDA Projects

“The REFI-QDA Standard enables interoperability between Qualitative Data Analysis Software (QDAS or CAQDAS) programs. Its purpose is to enable users to exchange processed data between programs. It is an open standard and any program can implement it, thus increasing the number of software programs that can ‘talk’ to one another.” (

The REFI-QDA Standard makes it possible to exchange projects between all software packages that support the XML exchange format. Software vendors include Atlas.ti, f4Analyse, NVivo and QDA-Miner. MAXQDA supports both exporting a MAXQDA project in the developed XML exchange format and importing a project from such an XML file.

The REFI-QDA Project file contains specifications for the following MAXQDA components:

  • Documents and document groups
  • Codes
  • Internal links
  • Memos (and log book)
  • Coded segments
  • Comments assigned to coded segments
  • Document variables (or more precisely: document group variables, which do not exist in MAXQDA)

The REFI-QDA Project file does not contain specifications for the following MAXQDA components:

  • Document sets
  • Table documents
  • Summaries
  • Paraphrases
  • Complex concept maps
  • Code variables
  • Speaker variables
  • Stop lists (word clouds and MAXDictio)
  • Dictionaries (MAXDictio)

The exchange possibilities are therefore limited, because the REFI-QDA Project does not support all elements from all software packages. Even if it would support all elements, it should also be noted that, the project logics of the individual software packages differ and therefore complex projects can never be transferred one-to-one. Additionally, not all QDA programs support all elements, for example not all programs support working with PDF files.

The format is therefore not suitable for a teamwork situation where multiple researchers work on the same project data with different software packages.

Note: The same initiative also developed the "REFI-QDA Codebook" standard for the exchange of codebooks (with code tree incl. memos). This standard has been supported since MAXQDA version 2018.1 and is available via the menu functions Codes > Export/Import Code System.

Import a „REFI-QDA Project“

How to import a REFI-QDA Project into MAXQDA:

  1. Click on Open Project - either in the Start dialog that appears immediately after MAXQDA starts, or in the Home tab if you have already opened a project in MAXQDA.
  2. In the appearing file dialog, select an REFI-QDA Project file and click

Important notes for importing:

  • Text documents are imported as plain text.
  • Annotations of coded segments (comments) are shortened to 255 characters.
  • Memos which are assigned to the whole project are imported as free memos.
  • Coded text segments in PDF files are imported as coded image segments.
  • Document group classifcations are not imported
  • NVivo case variables are not imported
  • Audio and video files are copied to the external files folder and have an empty transcript. Any existing associated transcripts are imported as separate document.
  • REFI-QDA Project files exported from Dedoose must not be password protected.

Export a „REFI-QDA Project“

To save the opened MAXQDA project in the REFI-QDA-Project format with the file extension .qdpx, click on Save Project As in the Home menu and select "REFI-QDA Project" as the file format.

Important notes for exporting:

  • The export includes text documents, PDF documents, images, audio, and video.
  • Text documents are exported as plain text.
  • PDF text codings are not exported
  • Transcripts with linked media files are not exported (remove linked media before exporting and manually transfer and re-link media files)
  • Focus group speaker codes and their segments are not exported. Paraphrase codes and their segments are not exported. Emoticode codes and their segments are not exported.
  • The project memo, all code set and document set memos are exported as „free“ notes.
  • Document variables are exported as case variables.
  • Document subgroups are exported as top-level document groups of equal rank as their parent groups.

The QDPX file that is created during the export contains all documents of the project including externally saved files as well as linked audio and video files. The export process may therefore take a while and the resulting file can be quite large.


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