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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Qualitative Data Analysis: QDA Software

Resources on conducting qualitative data analysis

Qualitative Data Analysis Software

There are some free tools available for QDA. Free tools sometimes have fewer features and less-sophisticated interfaces than their paid counterparts that are developed by a for-profit company. In most cases, free and open-source programs are created and maintained by an individual or small group doing this work in addition to their main job. 

In addition to QDA software, some researchers will make use of other types of software for analyzing qualitative data, such as comments in a word processing document or structuring data in an Excel spreadsheet, as these are more widely available. 

There are many licensed (use requires a paid fee) programs for QDA. Most vendors offer a free trial period to let you test out the software before you purchase a license. Vendors will also usually offer a much reduced rate for current students. 

The list of programs here is not exhaustive, but includes those programs that I've seen used among the campus community. 

QDA software has traditionally been installed on individual computers with collaboration made possible by merging files after each researcher has conducted coding (or some other analysis strategy). 

In recent years, there has been a growing number of tools made available online. These tools allow research teams to collaborate in real-time using data stored online. This processes raises questions about data security however. You must ensure that the storing the data on a server owned by a software vendor is allowed within the guidelines of your IRB and agreements with any research participants. 

The table below shows some of the major features that researchers will use when deciding which QDA software may be most useful for their research. Want to talk more about options for QDA software. Please schedule an appointment or contact me via email

A table comparing characteristics of some QDA software.
  Free? Student license? Multimedia data Survey data Automatic coding Real-time collaboration
Atlas.ti (Desktop) No Yes Yes Yes Yes No - merge only
Atlas.ti (Web) No Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Dedoose No Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Delve No Yes No No No Yes
MAXQDA No Yes Yes Yes Yes No - merge only
NVivo No Yes Yes Yes Yes No - merge only
QualCoder Yes NA Yes Yes Yes No
Quirkos No Yes No Yes No Yes 
R Yes NA No No No No
Taguette Yes NA No No No Yes

Definitions for each characteristic: 

  • Free? Indicates whether the software is available for free to researchers. Yes indicates that the software is either free-to-use or licensed for use open-source. 
  • Student license: Indicates whether there is a reduced fee for the software for current students. 
  • Multimedia data: Indicates whether the software can upload and support direct analysis of video, audio, or image data. 
  • Survey data: Indicates whether you can upload or import open-ended survey data and directly analyze the survey data. 
  • Automatic coding: Indicates whether there are is any ability to identify and automatically code text data within the software. 
  • Real-time collaboration: Indicates whether members of a research team can work with the same data that is stored online or "in the cloud" and see each other's work in real-time.