How To Review your Literatures by using ATLAS.ti In 5 Easy Steps

Most projects require a number of steps plus a good dose of perseverance. Even the simplest project requires preparation, know-how and perseverance through several steps for a certain period of time. Setting out to review your literatures for any academic exercise – be it by using the traditional pens-and-papers method, or by using a computer software – is no exception. This article will show you how to use ATLAS.ti software program to review your literatures in a mere five easy steps.

Step 1: Preparation of essentials
This will include:
(1) Atlas.ti software readily installed on your PC,
(2) A number of literatures to be reviewed, and
(3) A conducive ‘internal’ and ‘external’ surroundings so that you can concentrate on your review, e.g. a positive mind-setting, a comfy chair, a cup of coffee or a glass of juice etc.

When all the essentials are ready, you can be rest assured that you can begin the review process straightaway.

Step 2: Assign the literature files as ‘Primary Documents’ or ‘P-Docs’ within the Atlas.ti program

Just follow these simple steps:
(1) Open ‘P-Docs Manager’ window within the Atlas.ti program,
(2) Click on ‘Assign primary documents’ icon and a textbox will appear,
(3) Select the literature files that you wish to review, and
(4) Click ‘OK’. The textbox will disappear, and the list of literatures will appear in the ‘P-Docs Manager’ window.

By ‘assigning’ literature files into the Atlas.ti program, you simply create ‘links/bridges’ between the literatures and the Atlas.ti program rather than ‘uploading’ the files into Atlas.ti. Uploading causes the Atlas.ti file to be ‘heavy’ and ‘burdensome’ to ‘carry around’, or to be saved into other removable disks.

Perhaps, another important reason for using the ‘assigning’ method is to make it easy for your future use, because, upon assigning the literatures as P-Docs, you will be able to view, review and output the literatures from within the Atlas.ti program itself, without having to open each of the literature files! Wouldn’t that be cool?

Step 3: Think of a number of themes for your review

This can be achieved by thinking what you wish to obtain from the literatures. It can be anything related to your research. For instance, if you’re doing a write-up on ‘Scrapbooking’, the possible themes could be: ‘history’, ‘how to’, ‘resources’, ‘advantages’, ‘disadvantages’, ‘where to publish’ etc. and the list can go as long as you wish. Once you have identified the themes, list each theme (in Atlas.ti, the themes are known as ‘Codes’) in the ‘Code Manager’ … This can be a very critical step. It demands concentration as well as your full attention. Enabling yourself to reach this stage is really a boost to your feeling. Go for it!

Here are more tips to help you with this Step:
(1) Open ‘Code Manager’ window within the Atlas.ti program,
(2) Click on ‘Create a new item’ icon and a textbox will appear,
(3) List all the possible themes/codes, each is separated by the symbol “|”,or alternatively, you can repeat step (1) and (2)
(4) Click ‘OK’. The textbox will disappear, and the list of themes/codes will appear in the ‘Code Manager’ window. Congratulations! You did it!

Although this step is significant and should not be missed out, do not worry if you only have one Code in the beginning. You can always add on other Codes along the coding process. Likewise, do not worry, too, if you have too many Codes in the beginning, because along the coding process, you can always delete unnecessary Codes, or merge similar Codes together.

Step 4: Begin the coding process

Coding means: going through the text of the literatures, and identifying which points fall under which Code. When you have identified the points, highlight it by using your cursor, and simply drag the Code from within the ‘Code Manager’ and drop it onto the P-Docs view. Once you have done that, a mark will appear at the right- hand side of the P-Docs view. In Atlas.ti ‘language’, the highlighted portion of the P-Docs is called ‘Quotation’. Bravo! You did it again!

An important point to clarify; Atlas.ti software program does not replace the reading and understanding process. It simply helps to replace the traditional way of highlighting using a highlighter/pen with the computer-clicking. Further, it also replaces the pens-and-papers management of data by making the process computerised.
Now you are ready for the next Step.

Step 5: Output the quotation for the Codes

When you are done with coding/reviewing a number of literatures and you feel like you have gathered enough information on a particular theme/Code; then you’re getting ready for your write-up.
You can retrieve all the quotations which have been coded earlier into a single text document. This process is called ‘Getting the Output’; which is quite simple really – just about anybody can do it.

This is how it goes:
(1) You highlight the code which you wish to output within the ‘Code Manager’,
(2) You click at the ‘Output’ and a drop down menu will appear,
(3) Simply select ‘Quotations for the Selected Code(s)’,
(4) You will be prompted with a textbox, which requires you to choose from: ‘Editor’, ‘Printer’, ‘File’, or ‘File & Run’.

I guess you must be thinking: “Which one should I choose?”

Well, if you wish to edit the output before printing, you may choose ‘Editor’. If you wish to print it straightaway, you may choose ‘Printer’. You may choose ‘File’ if you wish to save the output, or ‘File & Run’ if you wish to save the output and thereafter open the view for the reference of your write-up.

At the end, when you have done the above mentioned Steps, you can relax and enjoy the benefits of your success. You deserve to be pleased with yourself! You set out to attain your goal (that is coding) and you have succeeded! Bravo! You have “climbed the Mountain”! Now you know that you can review your literatures by using the Atlas.ti software program and save all the hassles of the traditional pens-and-papers methods. I am sure you are looking forward to code even more articles.

**** 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 the Manager of International Projects for Training and Partnership Development of ATLAS.ti Scientific Software Development GmbH. She is physically located in Kedah, Malaysia. She may be contacted at ani.munirah [at]
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27 Responses to How To Review your Literatures by using ATLAS.ti In 5 Easy Steps

  1. corrynelson says:

    hi there.. i accidentally found your blog! it was so crucial that i have to learn the atlas.ti and nvivo by myself and i’ve downloaded the tutorials from atlas.ti webpage..

    thanks for the tips!

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Dear corrynelson, good for you. In fact, you can download the trial version of Atlas.ti version 6.1.1 from the webpage, and try to navigate around. The tutorials are very useful. Good luck!

      • Othman Talib says:

        Im a newbie…. without any atlas.ti experience. I have attended the Nvivo workshop but I notice that atlas.ti is much easier. I missed Ani Munirah’s workshop so I have to learn how to operate atlas.ti on my own…. so far so gud! Tqvm to Ani Munirah who introduced to me the software last year…

        • Ani Munirah says:

          Dr. Othman, I always stress upon the simplicity of ATLAS.ti and try my best to show the simple steps of working with it to my workshop participants 🙂 In fact, I trust you can start working on your own by only referring to the Quick Tour which can be downloaded from the official website. My research partner and I are now translating the same into Malay languagae, which will soon be available. I trust this would benefit most of our Malaysian users.

          • Othman Talib says:

            Gud…. hoping to be the first who get the book. Pls include lots of workout and real life examples…. especially for simple data with interview transcripts, pdfs, docs, movies and sounds…..

  2. Julio Palma says:

    First of all, congrats for your winning article!. I wonder if you have some ideas of how to keep track of you reference or bibliographic material of the codes you are using when writing up??

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Hi Julio, other people might have their own style of keeping records. As for myself, I manage my references by using the EndNote version X3. I learned from my lecturer Dr. Nadiyah Elias when saving documents, try to keep the file name as {Author, year} in a specific folder. When referring to the very same reference, I just sort in the EndNote according to the author, and I’ll be able to track it.

      As for the codes, I learned this tip from my mentor Dr. Susanne Friese to name the codes in the Code Manager of ATLAS.ti according to groups, alternatively to use the Code Family. Please e-mail me personally and I’ll be able to explain more in detail. Thanks.

      • A.Hariri says:

        May I suggest using Mendeley instead of Endnote. The real nice feature of Mendeley is that if you allow it, it can sort all your files into any structure you want. For instance, it can automatically name your files based on an author-year format, which then can be used within Atlas.ti.

        Just thought I would mention this excellent feature :).

        • Ani Munirah says:

          Dear Dr. Hariri,

          Thank you for sharing the information. I do have colleagues using Mendeley, but since I’ve started using EndNote for quite some time and have built quite a decent references database on my area, I would prefer to stick to one reference manager only.

          Anyhow, in deciding on which software to use, it is always advisable to look around and choose one which fits most for the particular purpose of the research.

  3. David Hyatt says:

    Hello Julio; congratulations! I have two questions. Do you
    assign the docs as the original files (like maybe they are stored
    in EndNote) or do you create copies and place them in a single

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Dear David, I’m not sure if this question is intended for me, or for Julio. Never mind. I’ll just share my thoughts. I personally create copies of the files and store them in a special folder intended for analysis using ATLAS.ti, the same folder in which I’ll store my HU later. The simple reason for this is because, once the file is assigned as primary document, the ‘link/bridge’ will be facilitated by the files and the HU in the same folder.. In addition, it will be easier for storage and backup purposes.

  4. Thanks for this post.

    Please, is useful for engineering literature review ? I just know about it.

    Thanks again and have a nice day.

  5. Byron says:

    Hi Ani

    Many thanks this, I am starting a literature review for my PhD and your post is very helpful. From previous ATLAS.ti experience, I found the software to slow down with image intensive networks, and I am a bit concerned the same may occur when my literature review grows.

    Have you implemented or come across any extensive literature reviews in ATLAS.ti i.e. 300 pdf or more?

    Thanks from a spring day in Cape Town!

  6. aysha says:

    Salam Dr Ani, can I know besides it is very useful managing our LR, what else ATLAS.ti could be implemented in doing PhD. Tqvm

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Dear aysha, ATLAS.ti is a CAQDA – computer aided qualitative data analysis software, meaning it helps with your analysis of qualitative data – unstructured or structured. It includes primary data (interviews, unstructured survey, observation, field notes, video, audio, etc.) or secondary data (books, journal articles, newspapers, reports, etc.

      Simply put, the software helps u to make sense of your data – from the raw data to the reportable format 🙂

  7. aznur says:

    Q1: What is the latest atlas software.. is the software free ? Version of ATLAS.ti 7 is free and works without time limit. other atlas software is a trial version. which one is better?
    Q2: the software helps u to make sense of your data – from the raw data to the reportable format ..can you give example in literiture review case .tq

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Q1: The latest ATLAS.ti version is 7. The latest update for the version (as of today) is 7.0.85. It is not a freeware, it is a shareware, you can find the pricing information on the official website But you may download the trial @ demo version, which is free and works without time limit. It only limits the number of documents you can analyse, code and quotes you can create, as well as memos and network view you can come up with. Apologies, I am not sure how to respond to “which one is better?”. Comparing between which and which?

      Q2: If you follow the steps mentioned in the above blog post, and up until step 5, choosing the Editor will reveal to you the Output of the ‘segments of the literatures’ which you think are relevant for a particular code. Our problem nowadays is that there are too many literatures @ past research to go through. To make it worse, the relevant segment in the literatures is only small e.g. one sentence or one paragraph. The coding and Output features of ATLAS.ti can help us to ‘capture’ these small segments in each of the literatures and send for Output in the format of .Rtf or .Doc. Hope the above assists.

      • aznur says:

        i downloaded and started using it..but only 30 documents can be saved ..perhaps i have to chunck my theme.. piece by piece (not to excide 30 docs) example : 1 File for history , another for advantages etc….what do you think? did you do the same too?

  8. aznur says:

    ** exceed (typo)

  9. Yash says:

    Dear Mdm Ani,

    First of all,thx and congrats to you for conducting a great seminar at UPM on 5-6/10/2013. I’m doing a quantitative research and for your information I have a difficulty to understand the method to arrange and merge the literature review in atlas.ti. It looks easy when you were teaching on how to use the atlas to do literature review but unfortunately, I unable to arrange back n segregate my LR although I tried to refer to the book and tutorials.Is there any simplest way or guidance to do the LR for quantitative research?Appreciate your help in advance.

    • Ani Munirah says:

      Thanks for trying to use ATLAS.ti, Yash. I believe u will find it useful and user-friendly. To your question: how to do LR for quantitative research, essentially there are no major difference how to do LR using ATLAS.ti for qualitative or quantitative research. You just need to identify the themes @ codes names, and start linking them to the points in your literatures. When the time comes for you to write, you can simply send for output, either in – textual, visual or numerical formats.

      I only spoke for 1 hour during the seminar at UPM, with the aim to give an overview of the concept and short demo of the process 🙂 During the seminar, we accepted registration for post-seminar workshops on 9th and 10th October at Wisma R&D, UM. To me, this is the easiest way to to learn the basics of ATLAS.ti for conducting academic LR. FYI the session is highly hands-on as the participants will be working on their own set of literatures, on their own laptops.

      You may find our list of upcoming workshops here —>

  10. Aiman Fadzil says:

    I plan to conduct this course at UUM. May I know the fees, min participants. Tq

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