Comparative reviews of software
Author Graham R. Gibbs
Affiliation: University of Huddersfield
Date written: 21st August 2008
Date revised: 28th October 2011
The KWALON Experiment. Issue 12 Part 1 of FQS: Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung/Forum: Qualitative Social Research (2011). In this 'experiment' researchers and sofware companies came together to undertake a qualitative data analysis using five different software packages with the same multimedia data set. Both developers and research users contributed articles about their experience to this issue of FQS.
See the introduction,
Evers, Jeanine C.; Silver, Christina; Mruck, Katja & Peeters, Bart (2011). Introduction to the KWALON Experiment: Discussions on Qualitative Data Analysis Software by Developers and Users [28 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), Art. 40, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101405.
And a commentary,
di Gregorio, Silvana (2011). Comment: KWALON Conference: Is Qualitative Software Really Comparable? Reflections on "the Experiment": An "Expert" View. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1), http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs1101C35.
Ann Lewins & Christina Silver (2007) Using Software in Qualitative Research: A Step-by-Step Guide, Sage Publications, London
Contains step-by-step guides for NVivo 7, Atlas.ti5 and MAXqda2 and a feature and functions comparison of NVivo 7, Atlas.ti5, MAXqda2, HyperRESEARCH 2.6, QDA Miner 2.0, Qualrus and Transana 2.
A recent review (in PDF format) of several programs by two of the trainers at the CAQDAS Networking Project is: Choosing a CAQDAS package - 6th Edition, 2009
It is not always easy to visualise exactly what a CAQDAS package offers when exploring it for the first time yourself. Equally, when asking someone else for their opinion, it is not always easy to know which questions you should be asking. Most of the software packages we are aware of and discuss regularly are excellent products in one way or several! Sometimes you choose the package that is already in situ and make good use of it - but if you have a choice about which software to purchase for your research project, you may be in some uncertainty about how to proceed. You may have basic understanding about what a CAQDAS software package will do, but the differences between the tools offered in each package are subtly but significantly different.
The paper then reviews the following programs: ATLAS.ti V5, HyperRESEARCH V.2.06, MAXqda V2, N6, NVivo 2, NVivo7, QDAMiner, Qualrus, Transana.
A comparative overview by Thomas König of the most important CAQDAS packages. Unlike many other reviews, this is not ordered by software products, but by product functions. As software capabilities are in a constant flux, König aims to keep these pages up to date to reflect the latest versions of the reviewed programs. König is mainly interested in textual analysis, but he has useful and thoughtful things to say about the software that will be of use to those using other approaches (such as thematic analysis, grounded theory, ethnography or discourse analysis).
Lewis, R. Barry. 2004. "NVivo 2.0 and ATLAS.ti 5.0: A Comparative Review of Two Popular Qualitative Data-Analysis Programs". Field Methods 16 (4): 439-464.
A comparative review principally of Atlas.ti, N6 and NVivo but with some reference to hypertext software as well.
Williams, M, Mason, B and Renold, E (2004) "Using computers in qualitative research: A review of software packages" Building Research Capacity Issue 7 February 2004
A fairly recent overview is in, Drisko, J.W. (2004). “Qualitative Data Analysis Software: A User's Appraisal”. In D. Padgett (Ed.). The Qualitative Research Experience [revised edition] Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.pp. 193-209.
This covers the use of the software and the user's experience. It also includes an extensive listing of software resources of many packages.
An earlier introduction is: Drisko, J.W. (1998) “Using Qualitative Data Analysis Software: Merits and Hazards”. Computers in Human Services, 15(1), 1-19. (Details of the versions of the software are now dated, but the overview is still worth reading.)
John Creswell and Ray Maietta provide a review of existing computer applications for collecting and analyzing data.
Creswell J. and Maietta R. (2002) Qualitative Data Analysis Software. In: Miller, D.C. and Salkind, N. J. (Eds) Handbook of Research Design and Social Measurement, 6th Edition, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Heimgartner, Arno. 2004. Das System in der Komplexität: Atlas/ti, MaxQda, N6 und NVivo im Vergleich. In: Praxisbuch: Empirische Sozialforschung in den Erziehungs- und Bildungswissenschaften., edited by Hannelore Reicher and Hubert Stigler. Studienverlag: Innsbruck/Wien/München/Bozen. (The system in complexity: Atlas/ti, MaxQda, N6 and NVivo compared)
A good comparative review from 1999 of a large number of programs (though no mention of NVivo, MAXqda or Qualrus as these were not released till after 1999) is by Alexa, M.; Zuell, C. (1999): A review of software for text analysis. ZUMA Nachrichten Spezial 5. ZUMA: Mannheim.
The book reviews a selection of software for computer-assisted text analysis. The primary aim is to provide a detailed (and up-to-date) account of the spectrum of available text analysis software and catalogue the kinds of support the selected software offers to the user. A related, more general, goal is to record the tendencies both in functionality and technology and identify the areas where more development is needed. For this reason the presented selection of software comprises not only fully developed commercial and research programs, but also prototypes and beta versions.
An additional aspect with regards to the kinds of software reviewed is that both qualitative and quantitative-oriented types of research are included. Depending on research purposes and project design the text analyst can profit from available tools independently of their orientation. Today it is often the case that in computational support, the borderline between quantitative and qualitative methodologies can become 'obscure'; instead, one can detect a number of commonalities which can be placed within a broader text analysis context.
The following fifteen programs are reviewed: AQUAD, ATLAS.ti, CoAN, Code-A-Text, DICTION, DIMAP-MCCA, HyperRESEARCH, KEDS, NUD*IST, QED, TATOE, TEXTPACK, TextSmart, WinMAXpro, and WordStat and the criteria and methodology used for selecting them are delineated. The last part of the book contains an extensive discussion about text analysis programs and the concrete issues raised from the review.
Melina Alexa & Cornelia Züll (1999): Commonalities, differences and limitations of text analysis Software: The results of a review ZUMA-Arbeitsbericht 99 (6)
This paper discusses the directions of change in functionality of software for text analysis (including CAQDAS) and identifies the areas where more development is needed. There is a comprehensive review of fifteen currently available programs for text analysis (AQUAD, ATLAS.ti, CoAN, Code-A-Text, DICTION, DIMAP-MCCA, HyperRESEARCH, KEDS, NUD*IST, QED, TATOE, TEXTPACK, TextSmart, WinMAXpro, and WordStat).
Christine A. Barry (1998) Choosing Qualitative Data Analysis Software: ATLAS.ti and NUD*IST Compared Sociological Research Online 3 (3): 4, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/3/3/4.html>. This review is now dated as it compares NUD*IST version 4 (N4) with ATLAS.ti version 4.1, neither of which are now available.
Udo Kelle (1997) 'Theory Building in Qualitative Research and Computer Programs for the Management of Textual Data' Sociological Research Online,2 (2):1, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/2/2/1.html>, accessed: Dec 3, 2005.
Melina Alexa (1997) Computer-assisted Text Analysis Methodology in the Social Sciences. ZUMA-Arbeitsbericht 97 (7). This report from ZUMA dates back to 1997, but still contains some useful hints about the key issues when comparing CAQDAS.
A good paper on what to consider when choosing a package is by Marshall, H. (2002) Horses for courses: Facilitating postgraduate students' choice of Computer assisted Qualitative data analysis Systems (CAQDAS)
This paper discusses Weitzman and Miles' (1995) framework for decision-making about CAQDAS and then reports the experiences of five postgraduate students, each of whom made a different decision. (These were variously: not to use a CAQDAS, using Atlas-ti, Ethnograph, NVivo and N5). It explores the fit between Weitzman's and Miles' principles and the students' experiences then suggests some modifications of the principles and strategies for advising students.
This book provides a detailed review of 24 programs in the 5 main categories (text retrievers, textbase managers, code-and-retrieve programs, code-based theory-builders and conceptual network-builders). The reviews are now very dated as they were published in 1995.
Weitzman E. A. and Miles M. B. (1995) Computer programs for Qualitative Data Analysis, Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.