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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

ATLAS.ti : Text Searching

A tutorial to get started with the computer assisted qualitative data analysis software (CAQDAS) program ATLAS.ti.

Standard Text Search

As with webpages, PDFs, and just about any other computer-based text, ATLAS.ti offers exact match text search.  This tool is invaluable when it comes to finding certain words or phrases quickly.  This is another tool with multiple access points.  

Click the "Search Project" tab at the top of the screen (CTRL/CMD+F will not work).
Once you invoke the search, a box will appear prompting you for a Search Expression.  

search box

Notice you can select case sensitive and GREP options.  Case Sensitive will return exact matches with same case.  See more about GREP below. It is also good to note that using word roots can be an effective means of finding all instances of a word.  Verbs, for example, often end in "ing" or "ed," so just searching the root of those words will return all occurrences.  

The asterisk (*) is a wildcard operator.  Use this to find words with similar meaning but different spellings.  For example, to find both library and librarian, you could search librar*, which will return all occurrences of both words. Similarly, searching wom*n will return "woman" and "women."

GREP Search

The well known UNIX tool has been converted to work wonders in ATLAS.ti.  Searching with GREP, a type of regular expression, allows the use of characters that specify an operation you want to carry out, allowing you to craft searches that cover a breadth of concepts.  For example, you could search a variety of different spellings of a word, a specified date range, and more.  To enable GREP searching, all you have to do is check the box in the text search box.

Search Project tab, Search group outlined in brown

"200[0-12]" searches all years from 2000-2012

"gr[ea]y" searches for both the American and English spellings of the color


^ Anchors the pattern to the beginning of a line.  If used within brackets, it excludes characters from the search;

$ Anchors the entered search pattern to the end of a line;

. Matches any single character;

* Matches any number of the preceding expression;

+ Matches at least one occurrence of the preceding expression or character;

? Matches zero or one occurrence of the preceding expression or character; e.g. cars? matches both "car" and "cars"

[] Matches a range or set of characters; e.g. [0-9] will match all numeric characters

:d Matches any digit

\ Escape character will disable the GREP qualities of one of the above operators; e.g. \$ will find the dollar sign in the text


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