Friday, July 9, 2010

Capabilities of Computer Software in Qualitative Research

"Computers used in qualitative research can be useful in conducting mechanical tasks such as searching and arranging descriptive data, but they cannot perform the conceptual tasks."

Some common tasks associated with qualitative research that have been programmed for computers are:

1.  Coding - requires an organized set of categories based on a specified rationale.  Coding "themes" or categories commonly are drawn out of the data. 

2. Lexical Searching - looking for specific words, phrases, combinations, or strings of words.  Reveals the dominant terminology used to describe the phenomenon under study.
3. Hypertext - is a flexible, database management system where segments of text in the research data are joined together by electronic links.  The data may be explored in various side trails.

Various software packages include:
1. The Ethnograph 

2. NUD*IST  (Non-numerical unstructured data - indexing, searching, and theorizing)

3. NVIVO (an upgrade of NUD*IST)