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Collaborative analysis for qualitative research
Qualitative research in teams can be a powerful way to expand the scope of a research project and to view your data through a variety of lenses (Smagorinksy, 2008). Working in teams, however, can bring challenges for those establishing an analysis strategy and for transparently communicating the analytic process, particularly when team members have access to different types of QDA tools (Davidson et al, 2017).
Each QDA software varies in its approach to supporting collaborative analysis. You can see some information on collaboration capabilities for major software programs below. I highly recommend that you make a plan for working with your research team before you get too far into your analysis and that you pilot test the process with a small segment of your data.
Choosing software for qualitative research teams
Sharing project files
For QDA software that is not cloud-based, you will need to develop a plan for sharing and merging project files.
- MAXQDA: MAXQDA has recently added a team cloud feature which allows cloud-based management of files for those with annual subscriptions. For those without the team cloud feature, MAXQDA suggests several strategies for working on the same project in their manual. You can find an extensive guide to working in teams using MAXQDA through the MAXQDA Press. Unless team members are working on the same device, each user would need to have their own license.
- Atlas.ti: if you are not using the cloud product for Atlas.ti, you can collaborate using different copies of the project file that can be later merged together. Unless team members are working on the same device, each user would need to have their own license.
- NVivo: Separate NVivo projects can be merged together
Working on the a cloud-based project
Some QDA programs have a cloud storage component that let you work with your team on the same online file. If you do use a cloud storage based program, keep in mind that this means putting your data online and you should ensure that this is done in way that meets the guidelines in your IRB protocol or other ethical expectations.
- Taguette: You can install Taguette on your own server or use the server provided by Taguette. Once you've built a project, you can add users with different permission levels to view or edit the project data. Coded data from Taguette can be exported in Word or spreadsheet formats for further analysis. A codebook developed in Taguette can also be exported for use in another QDA software program. Taguette is an open-source project and so free for all users.
- MAXQDA: MAXQDA has a team cloud feature, but it is only available to those with an annual subscription license. The team cloud product allows up to four users to collaborate on a single shared project.
- Atlas.ti Cloud: Atlas has recently developed a cloud-based project with which you can code text data with other users, as well as write memos in collaboration with team members. Coded data can be exported for use in the desktop version of Atlas.ti or you can create .csv files that can be opened in spreadsheet software like Excel and Google Sheets. You can also export a codebook file for use in a different software tool for QDA. Each user must have a license, which costs $20/month.
- NVivo Collaboration Cloud: NVivo users can purchase an additional license for their cloud collaboration tool, which stores files in an online server and facilitates file sharing. Using this option requires that all of the researchers be using the same version of NVivo (e.g. Mac or PC, but not both).
- Dedoose: Dedoose is a cloud-based software for qualitative analysis in which projects can be shared with other users. Each user must have their own account, with per-user prices ranging depending on the size of the group from $10.95/month/user to $14.95/month. Dedoose projects can be exported in several different ways for use in other QDA programs and spreadsheet software.
- Quirkos: Quirkos also offers a cloud-based option for using their software with web-based data. You can export your coded data from Quirkos to spreadsheet files or PDF and Word reports. Project participants must have a Quirkos license, which are $8/month (student license) or $14 (academic license).
Resources on collaborative QDA
Cited on this page
Davidson, J., Thompson, S., & Harris, A. (2017). Qualitative data analysis software practices in complex research teams: Troubling the assumptions about transparency and portability. Qualitative Inquiry, 23(10), 779–788. https://doi.org/10.1177/1077800417731082
Smagorinsky, P. (2008). The method section as conceptual epicenter in constructing social science research reports. Written Communication, 25(3), 389–411. https://doi.org/10.1177/0741088308317815