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 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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