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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Qualitative Data Analysis: Coding & Analysis with ATLAS.ti

Methods-related texts about qualitative research.

ATLAS.ti Basics

ATLAS.ti is a proprietary QDA program developed and sold by ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH. ATLAS.ti is available on the Windows computers in the Scholarly Commons in the Main Library. ATLAS.ti is available for both Window and Mac computers, and there are mobile apps for the iPad and Android. Students can purchase reduced price licenses for ATLAS.ti

Atlast.ti released a new version of their software in Fall 2020, but this version is not yet available in the Scholarly Commons or for workshops. 

ATLAS.ti Resources

Using ATLAS.ti

Project Management in ATLAS.ti 

When you open ATLAS.ti, you'll have the option to create a new project, open an existing project on your computer, or import a new project. Any projects already on your computer will be available to open. Use the import option to bring a complete ATLAS.ti project from another computer or that you have previously exported. 

Saving vs Exporting 

When you finish work, save the project to your current computer if you expect to work on the same computer in the future. If you want to work on a different computer, or make a backup file to save elsewhere, use the Export Project function to create an .atlproj file that you can import into ATLAS.ti. 

Adding and Organizing Project Documents

In ATLAS.ti, your documents are the data that you will structure and analyze. With ATLAS.ti, you can analyze text documents as well as multimedia content, geo documents, and data from Twitter and surveys. Information about the different types of data are specified below. Your documents appear in the left side panel or can be organized using the Document Manager where they can be arranged into groups to support your analysis. 

Text Documents 

You can add many types of text files to ATLAS.ti for analysis, including Microsoft Word [files ending in .doc, docx, or .rtf], Open Office [.odt], HTML [.htm, .html] and plain text [.txt] files. You can also import PDF and code them as either text (if there is selectable text in the document) or images. 

Preparing Documents for Auto Coding

Before you upload documents that contain focus group data, you may want to ensure that the speaker names are clearly labeled so that ATLAS.ti can help you auto code answers by participant. By using either particiant: or @participant you indicate that the text following the participant name can be auto coded. 

Similarly, if you have interview data, consistently labeled questions can be auto coded with ATLAS.ti. For example, if you label all of the third questions in the interviews with Q3, you can have ATLAS.ti auto code the responses so you can compare across participants (see the Coding tab for more information on auto coding). 

Reference Manager Data 

Export citations and full text files from a reference manager like Zotero or Mendeley and you can import that data into Atlas.ti. This can be useful for analyzing materials for your literature review, or linking your qualitative data to relevant literature. 

Multimedia Data and Transcripts 

Geo Documents 

Twitter Data 

Survey Data

Codes and Code Groups

Codes are the labels you use to structure the data that you have in an ATLAS.ti project. You can create codes before you begin reading through and coding your data, or on the fly. 

Codes can be organized into groups, or you can indicate the relationship between codes. For example, you might say that Code 1 is a cause of Code 2. Indicating relationships between codes may help you analyze the data to better understand the relationships between concepts, events, participants, or any other element in your data. 

Code lists can be both exported from ATLAS.ti for use in another program or uploaded to ATLAS.ti using Excel or the QDC format. 

Quotations

When you select content from your documents to code, you create a quotation. Quotations can be whatever level you decide is appropriate for your project and analytic approach. You could code single words, sentences, paragraphs, parts of documents or entire documents. 

Each quotation has a unique number based on the document it is in. For example, the third quotation created in document 45 will be labeled 45:3. By default, the quotation will have a title based on the first words of its content, but you can also choose to add titles to help you keep track of the content in the quotation. 

Creating Quotations and Coding in Text

To create quotations in text documents, select the text of interest and then you can: 

  1. Create a quotation from the selection (without adding any coding) 
  2. Add coding (which also creates the quotation if it does not exist already) 
  3. Code in vivo (coding the quotation with the selected text) 
  4. Quick code (using the most recently used code) 

Creating Quotations and Coding in Images 

When you work with images in ATLAS.ti, you can select portions of the image to serve as quotations. Once you have created a quotation, you can describe the image in the title or comment for that quotation. 

Creating Quotations and Coding in Video and Audio Files

You can view or listen to video and audio files within ATLAS.ti and create quotations for coding. 

Coding Your Data Automatically 

Depending on your approach to analysis and the amount of data you have, you may find it useful to use auto coding features in ATLAS.ti. Auto coding can help you quickly code by speaker interviews or focus groups and identify relevant text across documents. 

Focus Group Coding 

If you set up your documents so that each speaker can be identified in the text, ATLAS.ti can locate and automatically code the content that is linked to each speaker, allowing you to quickly pull together the data linked to a single focus group participant. 

Focus Group Coding (Windows + Mac)

Auto Coding 

ATLAS.ti's auto coding feature uses a text search function to locate relevant content, create quotations, and then assign the code you designate. 

 

Networks

Atlas.ti offers the ability to create networks, or visual representations of relationships between elements of your data, including codes, code groups, documents, document groups, and memos. 

Code Cooccurrence 

Use the code cooccurence table to see where codes appear together for all of your documents, or a subset, using document groups. 

Code Document Table

With the code document table, you can see how codes are distributed across documents or document groups. 

Inter-rater reliability

Some methodologies call for researchers to collaboratively code data and then compare the consistency of coding. Atlas.ti allows you to do this using their Intercoder agreement mode. 

 

Memos

Memos are a valuable tool for documenting your research process and even beginning the writing process for your final research project. While you can keep memos anywhere, using a memo tool in your QDA software lets you link it to elements within the data to ground your analysis. 

Exporting 

The results of your analysis can be exported from Atlas.ti to other types of programs, which lets you share your analysis with collaborators or others who cannot work in Atlas themselves. 

 

Workshop Materials