Benefits And Drawbacks Of using software programs for your qualitative data analysis

There are a number of software programs designed for analysing qualitative data, for instance nVivo and Atlas.ti. This brief article will outline the positives and negatives of adopting these software programs for your data analysis.

All right, let’s get started. On one side you will find the “Pro”, the positions in favor:

The first point in support of software programs for your qualitative data analysis is going to be that software programs support multiple document formats, including .doc, .docx, .xls, .pdf, .txt, .jpg, .bmp, .mp3, .dat, rtf and etc. This would mean that you no longer need to print out your documents for reading and analysis, because the software program can help you to read and analyse right from within the program itself, without converting the documents to a specific format.

The second point in favor can be the automacy of the coding and analysis process. All you need to do is to open the document in the software itself, highlight the portion that you wish to code (this portion is called ‘quotation’) and drag the code from the code manager. It is that simple. Creating quotation and quotes at the same time. You may then say goodbye to the manual style of analysis by using pens, highlighters and papers – thanks to these software programs.

The third supporting point is going to be that the software will also help to manage your documents containing your precious data, be it primary or secondary data. All you need to do is to assign the document as ‘primary document’ and you’re all set to retrieve the document directly from within the Atlas.ti program itself.

A fourth big benefit is the friendly network tool which is useful for you to present your linkages or ideas is network format. The network output can be saved as image file and easily inserted into your work, for instance MS powerpoint, MS publisher or MS word.

And last (although not necessarily least) we’ve got the fifth point in support that you will have access to online support from the support team who are usually contactable by online chat or friendly e-mail. you can be rest assured that all your technical problems can be addressed to by the support team, or you may contact your local resellers or trainers for any support that you may need.

For balance then let’s hear from the opposite side, those opposed, the “Con” side:

The main point against using software programs for your qualitative data analysis is given the name ‘software’ it only supports ‘soft’ data, which means if you wish to analyse data in printed format e.g. reference books, reports etc. you will need to convert it into softcopy format first by using the computer scanner into .pdf format or .rtf. Thereafter you can assign it into the software programs and start analysing. Although the process will be a bit tedious, the aftermath benefits would definitely overrule the tedious process which you need to go through.

Now both sides have been heard from and the Pros and Cons are stacked up, in favor and against.

Finally then, what’s the “bottom line” here? Is using software programs for your qualitative data analysis bad or good?

Both questions appear to have a “yes” answer! Using software programs for your qualitative data analysis is apparently both good AND bad! It needs to be left up to you , the reader to decide. Which side, the good or the bad, has the preponderance of weight of opinion?

**** For further information on Atlas.ti, queries or training invitations, please contact us by e-mail at animunirah [at] at anytime or phone +60195555084 (Malaysian time is GMT +8).

About Ani Munirah

Ani Munirah Mohamad is a senior lecturer at School of Law (SoL) and Research Fellow at Center for Testing, Measurement and Appraisal (CeTMA), Universiti Utara Malaysia, Sintok, Kedah, Malaysia. Ani is also a certified senior professional trainer for ATLAS.ti GmbH where she coaches and trains fellow researchers on how to use ATLAS.ti powerfully for the purpose of qualitative analysis and literature review. She may be contacted at dranimunirah [at]
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